After Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005, destroying large sections of the city and displacing thousands of residents, award-winning movie star Brad Pitt decided to take action to help suffering residents. He launched an organization called “Make It Right” and set off on a mission to build more than 100 environmentally conscious, sustainable homes in the city's impoverished Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm.
But now, several years later, the vast majority of Make It Right's homes are in shambles and are suffering from catastrophic structural defects, according to Judith Keller, an international research scholar in geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Meanwhile, Pitt's organization has apparently folded under the weight of numerous lawsuits.
What are the details?
Writing for the Conversation, Keller reported that only six of the homes remain in reasonably good shape. Several have been demolished, at least another six have been boarded up and abandoned, and countless others are "riddled with construction-related problems that have led to mold, termites, rotting wood, flooding, and other woes." Many residents have reportedly filed lawsuits against the organization that are still pending.
"A nonprofit that built houses with input from Frank Gehry and other prominent architects amid much fanfare for survivors of one disaster then ushered in another disaster," Keller assessed. "Make It Right, despite what its name might suggest, has not resolved these issues and has stopped assisting residents. Instead, the movie star-led nonprofit has apparently become defunct."
The urban geographer added that the homes were built using a green, sustainable philosophy that advocates for the use of safe and reusable materials, clean water, and renewable energy. However, for all their promise, many of the homes lacked basic features "such as rain gutters, overhangs, waterproof painting, or covered beams."
The situation really began to unravel in 2018 when residents filed a class-action lawsuit against Make It Right, alleging the organization sold them "defectively and improperly constructed homes" and "fraudulently deprived homeowners of their right to pursue legal actions under Louisiana's New Home Warranty Act."
At that time, Pitt, who has always served as the face of the organization, was reportedly still listed as one of its board members. The actor has since tried to distance himself from the charity's problems, though a judge ruled in 2019 that he must remain a defendant in litigation because of his role as the charity's founder and primary fundraiser.
Residents described their plight in greater detail to Keller upon her recent visit.
"They kind of got a second chance to make it wrong, not make it right again," one resident told Keller. "They made it wrong twice."
Another resident said that just eight months after she moved in, her home "was completely in shambles." She noted that her flat roof was unable to withstand the heavy rains of New Orleans and that massive water intrusion led to termite infestation and mold.
Others described feeling like they have been "taken advantage of on the biggest scale," suggesting that after causing the problem, Make It Right fled from the worsening situation.
"Something that’s been an incredible disappointment is the lack, the retreat, of Make It Right from any form of responsibility," still another resident added.
Keller suggested that the hazardous situation in the Lower Ninth Ward is an unfortunate result, but not necessarily a surprising one.
"While nonprofit housing developers can play a vital role in creating affordable housing, many questions remain regarding their accountability," she said.
TheBlaze reached out to Make It Right for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Another Brad Pitt Make it Right home demolished in the Lower 9th Ward www.youtube.com