Hey Writers, Want a Free House in Detroit?
January 31, 2014
Write A House (WAH), a nonprofit project, has bought three homes in a racially diverse, northern Detroit neighborhood, with the ultimate goal of offering them to writers from across the globe free of rent. As a twist on the traditional writer’s residency, if the writers selected stay in the house for two years and fulfill requirements such as contribution to the WAH blog and engaging in the city’s writing community, they will receive the deed to house. Applications will be accepted beginning April 2014 and are open to all writers, including poets, journalists, and novelists. The Write A House project was co-founded by journalist Sarah Cox and novelist Toby Barlow.
Why Detroit? According to WAH, Detroit offers a unique opportunity to live in a diverse environment offering rich material for a writer to draw from while also providing affordable cost of living. Cox relocated to Detroit from New York three years ago and says of the city, “There are endless stories that could be told in Detroit and really not enough writers to tell it… a place like New York [is] so oversaturated… everyone’s covering the same story from the same angle, but in Detroit it felt like there was room to develop creatively your angle, your beat, your take on Detroit… it’s so fascinating and weird right now.” Echoing her thoughts, Barlow says, “We live in a country that grows more homogenous every day. Detroit is a place that’s been spared that largely because of the misfortune and the economic downturn… but in a way that’s led to a very unique landscape that I think a lot of writers could benefit from.”
Once there, the candidates will have to carry the insurance and taxes on the property, an estimated $500 a month. There has already been “overwhelming and diverse” response to the Write A House project. Cox says, “We’re really looking for a team player for this neighborhood. Someone who understands that it has challenges but it also has these amazing, inspiring things and will be excited to participate in this neighborhood and take care of this house and keep guard over this little area of the city.”
Two of the three houses in the project were purchased for a thousand dollars each. Power House Productions, a local organization run by artists, donated the third. The two-bedroom homes are in the same neighborhood within walking distance of one another. Nicknamed Apple, Blossom, and Peach, the houses are in desperate need of renovation. Write A House is currently trying to raise $35,000 per home. The work will be done by the Young Detroit Builders, a nonprofit that teaches young people carpentry and restoration skills.