This is an overhead shot of Delia, Alberta, which is about a half an hour away from the Financial Uproar’s world headquarters in Drumheller. It’s about as happening as it looks.
When I was a chip guy, I used to deliver to the only grocery store in Delia. It was an old converted house, with approximately 1,000 square feet of retail space, and two of the nicest owners you could ever find. When I’d show up every Thursday morning, there would be a half dozen farmers milling about, talking about everything from corn to wheat. They made up for their lack of culture with niceness, anyway.
So why am I mentioning Delia, besides for nostalgia reasons? Recently the village made the news by offering building lots in a new subdivision for just $10 each. Delia isn’t the first place to try this, but it’s a smart move. The town gets some free publicity, and hopefully some fresh blood and a few more houses paying property taxes.
Although I don’t know the details of this particular offer, I suspect it goes a little something like this. You can have the lot for $10, provided that you build a house on it in a specified amount of time, like a year. These lots used to be for sale for $30,000, but after seeing no takers, the village cut the price drastically, thinking that they’d make it up in property taxes over the years.
But the issue remains that it’s Delia. While the community does have a school, a store, a couple of restaurants, a bank branch, and arena, it’s lacking in a bunch of other ways. Unless you can work at home, you’re looking at a commute of at least a half an hour to work. That’s not bad — at least, compared to Toronto or Vancouver — but it’s certainly not ideal. One of the reasons why I like living in a small town so much is the two minute commute. Even if you do happen to find a job in the village, you’ll still be driving for stuff like groceries or going to the hospital.
There’s also the lack of entertainment options. If you’re a homebody this isn’t such a big deal, since TV looks the same no matter where you watch it. But if you want to do anything more exciting than go to the park or have a barbecue with the same four people you had a barbecue with last week, then you’re out of luck.
There are advantages to living in Delia. If your idea of a busy night is having three cars drive past your place, Delia is the ticket. It’s the kind of place where nobody locks their doors and random dogs run up the street. And if you just look at living costs without the associated commute, it’s definitely cheaper to live there than Drumheller, and much cheaper than Calgary. I don’t know exactly what it would cost, but I suspect you could build something pretty decent on your $10 lot for an additional $200,000, especially if they’d let you bring in a modular home. That’s not bad, especially compared to the city.
Still, we have to factor in commuting costs. Say we’re looking at 50¢ a kilometer including gas, depreciation, and 300 pairs of racing gloves per year. Round-trip from Delia to Drumheller is 94 kilometers, a journey we’ll assume gets made five days per week. Suddenly, we’re looking at almost $250 per week just in driving costs alone, and that values your hour on the road each day at nothing. Yeah, you’ll have commuting costs wherever you live, but certainly not to the tune of $250 per week.
Still, for this guy who works at home, the idea of Delia is a little bit appealing. Just how much longer until Amazon starts delivering groceries? If a cow wanders onto my land, does that make it mine? IT’S THE FARMER CODE, YO. If I could limit my trips into town to a couple times a week, I think the cheaper housing would end up winning out.
Anyhoo, I’ll turn it over to you kids. Would you live in the middle of nowhere (the safest part of nowhere, at least according to Futurama) in exchange for cheaper living? Although I like Delia and the people who live there and I’m a bit of a lame-o who doesn’t go out, I still think it’s a little too small for me. Still, cool idea to offer $10 lots.