1. Write A House is a non-profit organization in Detroit (501c3 status pending) offering free houses to writers.
2. This is their mission statement, as listed on their website:
Our mission is simple: to enliven the literary arts of Detroit by renovating homes and giving them to authors, journalists, poets, aka writers. It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only in this case we’re actually giving the writer the residence, forever.
3. The project is two-tiered. First, they plan to educate local youth through vocational training in carpentry and construction.
Through a partnership with fellow non-profit Young Detroit Builders, they’ll use those skills to renovate and rehabilitate vacant homes in Detroit, the first of which will be located in “an emerging arts community” just north of Hamtramck.
4. Second, they will award at least three homes per year to low-income writers.
The writers will be chosen based on writing sample and application. Winners will live rent-free for two years (paying insurance and property taxes), after which they’ll receive the deed — as long as certain terms and conditions have been met. Those conditions include finishing up the renovation, contributing content to the WAH blog, participating in local readings, and being “responsible home owners, engaged neighbors, committed city residents, and good literary citizens.”
5. WAH has launched a fundraising campaign via Indiegogo for the renovation of the first house. Their goal is $25,000.
“Detroit has an amazing arts scene,” said novelist and co-founder Toby Barlow in today’s press release. “Our musical heritage is legendary, worldwide. And the visual arts have MOCAD, the DAC, and the College for Creative Studies, not to mention all the downtown galleries, but the literary arts haven’t really seen the same energy and growth.”
Kim James, another founder, calls it “a chance to take a negative and make it a positive.”
7. Some have criticized the project as a movement toward gentrification, suggesting that others beside writers might have use for the homes, though much of this criticism is coming from outside of Detroit.
8. WAH addresses the issue (“the g-word”) themselves, on their blog:
By investing in homes located in neighborhoods that are not primarily comprised of renters, we are strategically choosing to invest in long-term residents the way we know how. By purchasing distressed properties and rehabilitating them, we are deflecting their potential purchase by speculators. By giving these homes away, rather then filling them with temporary residents, we provide the neighborhood with more engaged and invested neighbors. By fixing up the properties and adding more eyes ears to the street, we are combatting issues of blight and crime. If by chance, these actions culminate to raise home prices in the neighborhood, long term residents will have the opportunity to benefit. Not just landlords and speculators. Overall Detroit has relatively high owner-occupancy rates as compared with other cities. Our hope is to contribute and reinvest in that tradition in a small way.