Write A House offers free homes in Detroit

Organization hope to fight blight, put people to work

By Evrod Cassimy - Reporter/Anchor

DETROIT - It sounds too good to be true. A free house, in good condition just given away to a lucky winner? In the city of Detroit, it's happening, and you could be the owner and there's no catch! All you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.

The scene is all-too familiar in Detroit neighborhoods: Run down, boarded up and vacant homes. But now, these homes are being fixed up and completely renovated and given away for free! It's all being made possible by a new local organization.

Write A House is an organization started to take over homes in Detroit that need fixing up. It works with people to teach them the vocational skills of renovation and repair.

Toby Barlow came up with the idea and the nonprofit company was born. The organization has already purchased three homes in Metro Detroit. With the help from young Detroit builders, it'll be fully restored before it's given away.

"This effort is going to stabilize the neighborhood," Barlow said. "It's going to help to stabilize the neighborhood and it's going to bring people into the neighborhood."

The renovations to these homes will be completed by the group Young Detroit Builders. Through a partnership with Write A House, the work is done by students.

"We work with young adults 18 to 24 year olds who didn't finish high school in the conventional time line," Angela Wilson of Young Detroit Builders said. "While they're with us they learn construction skills and they get certified in a couple areas and we actually have them do hands-on training by renovating homes for low income families."

Once the renovations are complete, the three homes will be given away free to three lucky people. All they have to do to win is write.

"We're looking for passionate writers, we're looking for talented writers," Barlow said.

Write A House plans to give this home to a selected writer who wants to use his/her talents to write about the City of Detroit. All you have to do is submit a writing sample and a letter of intent and the lucky winner will live here mortgage-free for the next two years. After that, the home is theirs to keep.

"The idea is for writers to come and be a part of it," Barlow said. "We want to also make sure they have a commitment to the neighborhood and to the city before we hand the thing over to them."

The non-profit is currently raising money for renovations that will start shortly. Applications for the free homes will be accepted this spring with the first three writers moving in this summer. Write A House hopes to do this every year.

"For a program that started with a very simple idea, which was helping literary arts in Detroit, I think we've built a program that has a ton of benefits," Barlow said.

Winners would only be required to pay the taxes and insurance on the home. Write A House hopes to fight blight in the City of Detroit while putting people back to work at the same time. To visit the organization's website, click here.

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