05/27/2012 10:27 am ET

States Offer Historic Buildings Rent-Free Through Resident Curator Programs

Now you can live in an historic building rent-free for decades. The catch? You'll need to use a whole lot of elbow grease.

The states of Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut are offering “resident curator” programs that allow qualified renters to live in historic buildings rent-free for up to 20 years or more if they agree to restore and maintain them, Reuters reports (h/t The Daily Mail). With state budgets stretched then, the programs aim to finance restoration efforts that otherwise wouldn't happen.

Despite the allure of getting a historic building for free, the programs aren't for everyone. With restoration costs ranging from $150,000 to several million dollars, potential renters will need to have a significant nest egg of their own or relevant renovation experience to qualify for the program.

Many localities are struggling to find ways to maintain historic buildings amid budget woes. Pittsburgh officials proposed a plan earlier this month to add incentives for rehabilitating and preserving historic structures, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Likewise, the historic Globe Building in Detroit recently netted a $2 million tax credit to aid in its redevelopment, Detroit Free Press reports.

In one of the most extreme examples, the city of Baltimore, announced plans in March to sell a number of historic buildings to cope with budget shortfalls.

Transferring historic buildings to private ownership is happening abroad as well. The city of Moscow is renting historic buildings for 1 ruble (around $0.03), but only after auctioning them to tenants who agree to restore them, according to TIME. And last year, a medieval village in Italy featuring 11 “crumbling stone buildings” was put up for sale for about $770,000, the Telegraph reports.