Brad Pitt's Folly: Only 6 of 109 homes built by star for Katrina victims are habitable
When numerous people were displaced due to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation built as many as 109 affordable homes in New Orleans for the survivors. This housing development is reportedly in complete disarray now. The houses now have molds, termites, and rotting wood, apart from other construction-related problems. Reportedly, only six out of the 109 homes are in livable condition, nearly 20 years later.
Severe mold has led to the demolition of two of the houses built for the survivors. One of the properties is even being seized by the city for being a 'safety hazard'. Urban geographer Judith Keller told Daily Mail that the wooden structures are starting to collapse even in the houses that people can live in now. "Things are getting worse," she said, "and things that aren't getting worse are staying the same. But there is very little to no improvement."
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A number of residents have sued Brad Pitt's Make It Right. The organization, however, has reportedly stopped assisting residents and seems defunct now. Keller said that Make It Right officials were seen moving out of their office in the neighborhood last month
Pitt's foundation sought to build 150 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans for the price of $150,000 in 2007. Hurricane Katrina had resulted in several homes being completely damaged. Between 2008 and 2015, over 100 green Make It Right houses were built with $26.8 million reportedly being spent on the project. The attempt was to make the homes green and sustainable with safe and reusable materials, clean water, and renewable energy. The homes were also equipped with solar panels and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.
However, the houses found it difficult to withstand the subtropical climate and heavy rainfall of the city due to the lack of essentials such as rain gutters, overhangs, waterproof painting, or covered beams. As a result, heavy water damage brought in termites and ruined the wood. The foundation sued the principal architect in 2018, claiming the designs were defective. The complaint said that the organization "fraudulently deprived homeowners of their right to pursue legal actions under Louisiana's New Home Warranty Act" because it knew there were problems with the designs and materials and yet failed to alert the homeowners.
The complaint also said that the charity arranged for engineer inspections of the home "allegedly brought in specifically to render a report on the state of the Make It Right homes." However, they never gave homeowners access to these reports. It added that Make It Right gave homeowners a nondisclosure agreement and documents that bound them to arbitration before they even agreed to make repairs. "The homeowners are gravely concerned that their homes, which suffer serious structural problems, will not last as long as their mortgages," the complaint said.
Keller found that Make It Right failed to file a 990 form since 2019. The form is required by the IRS for nonprofits. While the website has become defunct, the phone number provided in its 2018 IRS paperwork does not work anymore. "It's not going to be an easy situation," Keller said, "My only hope is that the lawsuits bring some resolution, some justice for the residents."