Passed by Congress in 1862, the Homestead Act granted 16 acres of public land in the West as a homestead to "any person who is head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such." To receive clear title the homesteader was only required to pay a small filing fee, to live on the land for five years, and to make certain improvements. Although it remained in effect, with modifications, until repealed in 1977, the Homestead Act was not a total success. The better lands soon had come under the control of the railroads and speculators, forcing settlers to buy from them rather than to accept poorer government lands. Under the act, by 1900 about 600,000 farmers had received clear title to lands covering about 80 million acres.