It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only permanent. A clever new nonprofit called Write-a-House is giving away homes in Detroit to a select few writers, in the hopes that it’ll entice them to come to the city and stay.
The goal is to support writers in need and, ultimately, to bolster Detroit’s growing creative community. At the same time, Write-a-House hopes to revitalize Detroit’s neighborhoods: it purchased abandoned homes in a high-vacancy part of town and it’s working with another nonprofit, Detroit Young Builders, which gives at-risk youth training in construction, to renovate the houses before giving them away.
Low-income writers of any stripe — journalists, authors, poets, etc. — and from anywhere are eligible to apply for the residency. The winners, chosen by a panel of literary types, will be asked to finish the renovations, live in their house for two years, blog about it for Write-a-House and actively participate in the local literary community. Then, they’ll get the deed.
The first three houses under renovation are all within walking distance of each other in a working-class, mostly Bangladeshi and African-American neighborhood north of Hamtramck. If all goes as planned, Write-a-House will fix up another three homes in another neighborhood the following year and then do it all over again the year after that.
“Our long, long term goal involves building a literary colony in Detroit,” Write-a-House says on its website. Who knows? Maybe years from now kids will be studying the Detroit Literary Renaissance in English class.