Free houses for writers

The person in the foreground, walking L to R… totally thought that was a Ninja Turtle.

I see what you’re saying, but you’re missing a key fact: Detroit is full of eyesore properties that can’t be demolished fast enough. They attract firebugs and crime. Just having someone live there is probably good enough to improve the local economy. I think that it may introduce value that is difficult to quantify. Imagine a single city being “Writing Capital of the World”. All they need is one or two Emily Dickinsons or Chekhov’s and they’ll be able to make a name for themselves that way.


It’s smart. Cheap housing attracts artists. Artists attract intellectuals. Intellectuals romanticize. Suddenly Detroit’s churning out culture again and boom, Renaissance.

In addition to putting someone in the property so that it’s not vacant and attracting crime/squatters/fire/blight, I can see writers being the kind of people that would be a good fit for leading the way to reviving the city. They are likely to be the type interested in culture, education, community activism, etc. They’re often the type that won’t mind the things that make it rough around the edges, either. I can see some writers (especially those at the point in their career where a free house in a locale that needs some love sounds appealing) really embracing the fun, hipness, edginess, and opportunity of being an urban revitalization pioneer in their new homes.

Plus, professional writers aren’t going to be competing for the same jobs as current residents. They make their own gig. So it can’t end up with bad blood between the new residents and the established ones because they’re all trying for the same handful of job openings. They bring money into the community without having to have a job opening already waiting there for them.


"They make their own gig. "

AKA unemployed.

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Writers equals a boom in the critical Bar and Liquor store sectors.


Maybe this is me speaking from the place of privilege of being an employed writer making a good living, but it really seems like there are other people who could use access to affordable houses more (like, say, the people being taught to do construction work who, presumably, are having a much harder time financially than artists and writers).


I have a house. Could I get some kind of Writeadayjob program, where I suddenly have the time to write things instead of spending most of my waking hours doing data entry?

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Maybe this is you? maybe a monkey in a shoe. Who knew. Not me. maybe you.

In view of the topic, but it’s Detroit. Invigorating an abandon town? Smaller community greater security. But… Detroit? Seems so risky.

That’s valid, but as a resident of the rust belt skilled labor is useless without industry. We all just end up mowing each others lawns.

I think big picture this is the right move. It’s about public perception. Detroit has the potential to be a kind of frontier and frontiers attract ambitious people. They just need to flip the switch from dead industrial city to a place where people are doing interesting things


It seems like a fairly low risk endeavor. Foreclosed homes in Detroit have a sale value of near 0, because there is just no market for them. They do the easiest 80% of the renovations and leave the remaining 20% that take 80% of the time to the new homeowner (because of course artists and writers are renown for their renovation skills).

Buying a house for an “appraised value” in Detroit is a joke to. The appraised value is probably a few thousand dollars.

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Definitely a skilled writer involved: manages to write an entire post on gentrification without actually discussing it.


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Nah, that would be adding insult to injury. Just give them a pile of raw materials and let them build their own.

A Detroit Techno renaissance? Fuck, yeah.
(how come this browser’s spellchecker doesn’t think ‘techno’ is a word? Good Lord…)

Are the new writer-tenants obligated to pay all the back taxes on some of these homes? You can buy a house for $1 in Detroit, but the back taxes could be in the tens of thousands.

I grew up in metro Detroit and spent a lot of time there when I was younger; it’s been about a decade since I spent any real amount of time there. I have friends who live downtown and are part of the effort to make it “cool” or whatever to live there. When I have gone back to visit over the last 10 years, I feel like I can’t get out quick enough. It’s a sad place. Sure, some cool stuff is happening… but I just can’t see living there. It’s a major city, yet you still need a car to get everywhere. There are very few places in the city proper that aren’t dangerous. The city government is a shit-show. The casinos have bled even more money out of the poor population. And what now, they may sell the DIA’s art?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think I would even take a free house in Detroit. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to try to help revive the city. It’s just a really hard sell.

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In the critics bar & liquor store sectors, surely?

Fuck, you could probably write by using a laptop & Dragon software whilst doing data-entry…

That sounds like L.A. to me, it’s not a deal breaker.

You know what they should do? Give it to migrants. Pass a law to grant automatic US citizenship to whoever will settle in Detroit and live there for 15 years without committing any crime (excluding immigration felonies, of course). BOOM! It might get a bit weird in places, but it will change the economic fortunes of the city overnight.


Woo, and here’s me thinking that writing off the back taxes @jgi mentioned would be a tough sell…

I understand. I don’t think I’d live in LA unless I was rich, personally. And anyway, at least in LA you can easily grab a taxi if need be. Detroit is a different story. If you haven’t had your car broken into in Detroit, you probably haven’t lived in the city very long. Not sure the same could be said for LA.

Great idea! Apart from all the xenophobia in Michigan. It’s becoming a pretty conservative place. If you go there, don’t forget to sign up for some rape insurance!