Wanted: Writers Willing to Live in Newly Renovated Homes — For Free

Wanted: Writers Willing to Live in Newly Renovated Homes — For Free

Interested in entering to win this unique writer’s residency? Apply for Write A House’s next Author-in-Residence award starting on April 27, 2015.

Move to Detroit and get a free house — just for being a writer.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s what Write A House is offering to the lucky winners of its Author-in-Residence award.

A new twist on the writer’s residency

It’s a new kind of writer’s residency, one where the writer gets to keep the residence. But WAH does have a motive other than simply giving creatives a place to live: the organization wants to liven up Detroit’s literary arts community. Attracting writers, they hope, will help grow diverse and creative neighborhoods.

Three low-income writers will be chosen based on their writing skills and desire to contribute to their new city. Each will be given the keys to a newly-renovated house in a neighborhood north of Hamtramck in Detroit — though they should be prepared to assist with the finishing touches, such as painting.

Write A House house under renovations

Photo by Andrew Kopietz, courtesy of Write A House

“We chose this neighborhood to start because it’s a smaller community and we felt we could have an impact,” Kat Hartman, acting director of WAH, explained to The Huffington Post. “The neighborhood has a level of vacancy that is affecting the quality of life for current residents. They need more good neighbors.”

Winners will lease their new homes from the organization during their two-year term; at the end of their official residence, they will be given the deed to their house.

In exchange, writers are expected to participate in local literary and cultural events, write pieces for the WAH blog, contribute to a WAH literary journal, and be responsible, engaged members of the community.

Will you be the next author-in-residence?

You can apply for your chance at the award starting this spring, and you’ll need a letter of intent, a writing sample, and a resume. Writers from anywhere in the world are eligible to apply, though international applicants will want to keep U.S. work regulations in mind, as WAH notes that they are unable to assist with visa applications. Sign up on their site to be notified regarding application details and deadlines.

Write A House Offers Free Houses to Writers in Detroit

Photo by Andrew Kopietz, courtesy of Write A House

For now, WAH is busy renovating the first of its three houses with the help of Young Detroit Builders, a non-profit organization that teaches youth carpentry and other rebuilding skills.

The restoration of the first house, which is about 1,000 square feet, is expected to cost $25,000. WAH is crowdsourcing donations through Indiegogo to fund the project, and all donations go directly to Young Detroit Builders, which is a registered 501(c)3 charity.

(Update: they exceeded their goal by raising over $30,000!)

What do you think of WAH’s plan? Will you apply?

All images in this post are by Andrew Kopietz and are used courtesy of Write A House. More photos of the house can be found in the Write A House Gallery. 

Filed Under: Craft


  • I believe, if they allow, i will take the leap…I think the change of scenery to a new place will be good for me. and inspiration for the book. with the added incentive of meeting new people in the society, who could refuse. Wish me luck!

  • Yosri Bouassida says:

    Great idea. The dream of any writer to have a home as it’s own world. It’s never too late people.

  • Patti Whirls says:

    Anyone deciding to do this should do their homework. Detroit is one of the most dangerous places to live in the US. It would be wonderful to have this opportunity but at what cost? I’d love to take advantage of an opportunity like this, but not there!

  • This is a fantastic opportunity for authors and writers! If I hadn’t already had my dream house (an 1899 Victorian in Kansas City) come into my field of view, I would seriously consider this.

    Detroit needs go-getters who are community-minded, invested and literate. Yes, there is crime, and horrible economic issues, but those with a mind towards the future can make an incredible life for themselves if they aren’t afraid of hard work and taking chances.

    Here in KC, there was also an enormous amount of urban flight/blight. Not to the level of Detroit, but quite similar. Here there are also deals to be had…I bought a 900 square foot bungalow at the end of our property for $25. It is remarkably intact, and had amazing treasures within its walls – including two Civil War era bayonets and hundreds of science magazines from the 30s and 40s.

    Both cities have a lot to offer those possessing an entrepreneurial spirit and vision. But if you are looking for the perfect situation, with the perfect neighbors, all the right schools and none of the drawbacks – then indeed, you would be barking up the wrong tree going either place.

  • Dixie says:

    Detroit is bankrupt and conditions are horrible for the people who live there already. They have one of the highest crime rates in the US. Unemployment was 12% in December. The city cut a lot of public services as a result of the bankruptcy. One report is that 75% of the schools don’t provide adequate education for its students.

    So, no thank you.

  • I have seen some pretty scary neighborhoods in Detroit. I would caution any writers considering this to be aware of the crime rate, etc. in the area. I know they are trying to revitalize the neighborhood, but there is a reason it is in its current condition, which is the same reason they are practically giving away houses–these neighborhoods are flat-out dangerous. I’d be really hesitant about moving there with children.

    • Thanks for the words of caution, Bethanny. I agree that people will need to do their own research and consider their needs (eg. proximity to schools, availability of community resources, etc.) before choosing to move anywhere, however, different people will have different things they look for in a community. For many, it won’t be the right fit, but for some, it could be an interesting challenge and opportunity.

  • betty clemens says:

    Too late in my career, but have fond memories of living in Detroit during WWII. The project is exciting and should be duplicated in other areas in need of improvement. Great community support!

  • Melinda Todd says:

    Interesting idea indeed. I’m not sure I’d want to live in Detroit but it is a great idea. I hope it’s very successful for them. Are they leasing the house each month for free? And is there enough industry to get a job and pay the utilities and other normal expenses? I’ll be following this one!

    • My understanding is that the writer leases the house from WAH for a small fee (enough to cover taxes), then receives the deed after two years. As for industry, I’m not sure — I think this would be ideal for a writer with an online following who is somewhat location-independent. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes!

  • Robyn LaRue says:

    If I had the ability to live elsewhere, I’d do it. I like the idea of responsibility to the community as well. Alas, I married a Texan and he ain’t budging.

  • Elke Feuer says:

    What a great idea! If I lived in the US, and single, I would seriously consider it.

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