As It Happens

Wanted: A writer willing to relocate to Detroit for a free house

Detroit may not currently be the hottest real estate market in North America, but would you consider living there for a free, newly-renovated home? That's the offer put forward by the Write A House writers-in-residence program, which offers a permanent home to successful applicants.
Casey Rocheteau (left) and Sarah Cox (Courtesy of Write A House)

Detroit is currently far from the hottest real estate market in North America, but would you consider living there for a free, newly-renovated home?

That's the offer put forward by the Write A House writers-in-residence program, which offers a home to successful applicants so that they can hone their craft — permanently — in the struggling Motor City.

"We purchase the homes for very little money, and renovate them for a lot of money," program founder and director Sarah Cox tells As It Happens co-host Carol Off. "We find great people, we give them homes."

Last fall, Brooklyn-based poet and historian Casey Rocheteau became Write A House's first writer-in-residence. She loves her new home and is happily making a new life for herself in Detroit.

"When I heard about [the program], at first, I was very skeptical," Rocheteau explains. "I was living in Brooklyn at the time in a five-story walk-up in Crown Heights and I was going to grad school."

Her skepticism subsided when a friend from Detroit affirmed the program's legitimacy. She then sent in her best poems and provided a 150-word short answer essay. She beat out about 350 other writers for the prize.

Rocheteau's new bungalow, which is located in a neighbourhood around I-75 and Davison, is predominantly made up of artists and new families.

She has a two-year lease which began last November and pays the property taxes — should she stay beyond the lease period, the home becomes hers.

Cox says that there aren't any strict terms to Rocheteau's residency.

"I don't sit there on a day-to-day basis and say this is what you should be doing," she says. "We just let people take these nice self-directed paths and it's worked out so far."

She adds that she hopes the program is helping to introduce new voices and vitality to Detroit.

"Wouldn't it be great if more people wrote things about Detroit that we wanted to read?" she says. "I want to see better writing about Detroit and I want to see neighbourhoods come back — that's what we're going for."

U.S. residents who are interested in the program can apply now for the 2015 program.


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