Write-A-House, a Detroit-based literary organization founded in 2012 by novelist Toby Barlow, hopes to energize the literary community in the Motor City by giving writers not just a room of their own, but an entire home. WAH launched an Indiegogo campaign on Tuesday to raise funds to begin renovating the first of the three homes already purchased by WAH that will be deeded to emerging writers after they have lived in them for two years. “It’s like a writer’s-in-residence program, but the writers get to keep the homes, forever,” states the Indiegogo page titled “Write A House: Renovation of the Peach House.” Members of Young Detroit Builders, an organization that trains young people how to rehabilitate and renovate houses, will do the actual work on the houses alongside a licensed contractor. The three houses that have been purchased to date are all within walking distance of one another in what WAH describes as neighborhoods that are “a rich quilt of culture and change.” WAH bought the three houses for a total of $2,000. Renovations to each is estimated to cost $50,000-$60,000.
WAH's housing program is open to writers anywhere in the world who are willing to relocate to Detroit. “Detroit visual arts & Detroit musical arts have gotten a ton of attention over the years, but we believe this is a city that could really use some more writers,” WAH’s Indiegogo page states, “Any and all writers who are looking for a new home and new inspiration are encouraged to apply.” WAH will begin accepting applications in spring 2014.
WAH hopes to raise $25,000 through Indiegogo in the next 60 days, which will cover approximately 50% of the cost of renovating the first house. The organization hopes to raise the rest of the funds needed through grants by local and national arts foundations. WAH intends to buy more existing housing stock in the city as needed to renovate and then award them to eligible writers. The median sales price for houses in the city itself in the fourth quarter is $41,000.
"Detroit has no shortage of affordable housing stock," Barlow noted, "Writers can take advantage of all the great stories and possibilities this city has to offer, and the affordable lifestyle. Living in these abandoned cities is one of the greatest opportunities. And with the Internet, you can stay in touch with what's going on in New York and LA, and not have to pay those astronomical prices for housing. It's tough being a writer right now." Barlow, who lived in Brooklyn for nine years and in San Franciso for another nine years, has lived in downtown Detroit for seven years.