Man rebuilds $500 house in Detroit, finds sense of home

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 19, 2019

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TROY — As a 2008 graduate of the University of Michigan, at the height of the economic downturn, Drew Philp said he saw everyone he graduated with leave the state.

“I thought Michigan needed grads the most,” he said.

So he decided to stay, took a job sanding floors for $8.50 per hour and bought a home for $500 in Poletown, south of Hamtramck, on the east side of  Detroit.

“I come from a working-class family,” he said. “I felt very lucky to graduate from U-M.”

Philp will share his story and how he discovered community around him as he gutted the home and rebuilt it 7-8:30 p.m. June 24 at the Troy Public Library.

“I thought he had a fascinating story,” said Anna Barlow, Troy’s adult services librarian. “He talks about radical neighborliness and the community he found, keeping in mind the community that doesn’t seem like it’s there is alive.”

His book, “A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City,” published by Simon & Schuster Digital Sales, is available online on Amazon.

“I wanted something to tie me here indelibly, so that’s why I purchased it,” said Philp, a journalist.

He said he learned “the radical sense of what it means to be a neighbor, what it means to be a community. Young people are moving back to the city. They are looking for a sense of community. People are looking for it after losing it.”

Philp said he’s presented his program around the country and the world. He’s hoping that people bring questions, which he will leave plenty of time for.

He will show photographs of the house before and after, and of the characters in the book. He will also share stories not included in the book.

Register for the Troy Public Library program at or by calling (248) 524-3534.

The library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver Road.