I’ve had a soft spot for Detroit ever since reading Alexander C. Irvine’s superb alternate history novel [easyazon-link asin=”B007W490RQ” locale=”us”]The Narrows[/easyazon-link], set down on the wartime Ford golem (yes, golem) production line. So I’m glad to be able to report that Detroit has also created just about the best scheme imaginable for writers. For now, unfortunately, it only runs in Detroit. But it’s so attractive that I might even consider moving there.

write a house

And if I chose to, I could have a house to move into, for nothing. Because that’s what the scheme is about. “Write A House is a twist on the ‘Writer’s Residency’,” the Write A House site explains. “In this case, the writer is simply given the house, forever.”

Write A House, founded by “Detroit writers and urban activists” in 2012, “seeks to teach and support trade crafts and literary creativity. Our key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distressed housing in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts. In short, WAH will work to support a more vibrant literary arts community that lives at a grassroots level and helps Detroit’s neighborhoods.” Local Detroit teens get to learn basic building and carpentry skills by working on the houses, while the organization “seeks to support low-income writers by awarding at least three homes each year.”

There is an application procedure, and writers have to live in the house, which will be finished to 80 percent habitable state, for two years to be eligible to receive the title deed, so long as certain neighborhood participation and other criteria are met, but “will only be responsible for insurance costs and property tax costs.” After the two years are up, they get the house, without any further stipulation.

“Our long, long term goal involves building a literary colony in Detroit, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” says the site. At this rate, I’m boarding the next Mayflower for this particular colony.

What do you think? Is this the best thing invented for writers since the printing press? Conceivably. It’s certainly one of the most attractive literary propositions I’ve come across this year. I just hope some other, closer venue comes up with a similar scheme, before I bite the bullet and buy that ticket to Detroit.


  1. I own and take care of the family home place which is over sixty years old. Those poor writers, even if the house has been renovated, are doomed to spend a lot of writing time doing upkeep.

    I can predict that a lot of them will be writing versions of MR BLANDING’S DREAM HOUSE or THE MONEY PIT in the next ten years.

    This same kind of program has been done for local cops to move them into disadvantaged and crime-ridden areas, and they are, at least, equipped and armed for this move.

  2. I’d be careful and take the idea of joining a writers’ colony literally. Move into a neighborhood where others are already living and creating a bubble of protection. I’ve read that the typical response time to a ‘no one’s bleeding’ 911 call is about an hour in the city.

    Detroit is the New Old West with one terrifying difference. The city has strict gun control, which means only the criminals are armed. You better be good at defending yourself with a baseball bat or at running very, very fast.

    Sorry to rain on the ‘let’s move to Detroit’ parade, but there’s a reason you can get a free home there.

  3. Well really sorry to rain on the gun lobby, but strict gun control is *exactly* what I would look for in a city if I had the misfortune to live in a country with as Neanderthal an attitude to firearms as the US. The only solution to gun crime is more guns? I can think of a lot of American children who would see through that one, if they were still alive to be convinced.

  4. It is an axiom of many gun advocates that all outlawing guns does is take away law-abiding people’s ability to defend themselves from outlaws. Outlaws will have guns no matter what the law says—after all, they’re outlaws.

    However, this really isn’t the place to re-fight the gun control debate, and I would request people agree to disagree, or at least not snipe at each other over it.

    (For what it’s worth, I darn sure wouldn’t live in Detroit if I couldn’t keep a gun. The place is in collapse, the closest thing we have in North America to a war zone. When they made that bad remake of Red Dawn, the city actually let them knock down actual skyscrapers for their lousy movie. And they’re considering looting museums to pay off debt. That’s how bad off the city is. How good can the police be when there’s no money to pay them with? Fortunately, there are plenty of states that recognize my concealed carry permit that I can live in, if I ever should feel the need to start packing.)

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