Brad Pitt rode to the rescue of New Orleans 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina, and now the dozens of eco-friendly homes he built are falling apart.
Like a scene out of a movie, in April of 2006, about eight months after local mismanagement resulted in the collapse of New Orleans’ levees and a biblical flooding of the 9th Ward, movie star Brad Pitt not only vowed to save the day by building dozens of new homes, he was going to usher in the future.
His homes would prove that you can build in a environmentally friendly fashion and do it cheaper than if you use standard building materials.
By 2016’s Pitt’s Make It Right foundation reported it had spent $26.8 million building 109 homes, but a number of buyers are now complaining and even suing Make It Right over massive design and building flaws.
What’s more, NBC News reports, the problems are so bad, “a majority of Make It Right’s homes are now vacant.”
Residents complain of “mold and collapsing structures, electrical fires and gas leaks. They say the houses were built too quickly, with low-quality materials, and that the designs didn’t take into account New Orleans’ humid, rainy climate.”
And now Pitt’s organization has “all but disappeared.”
“Make It Right hasn’t built a home, filed tax forms or updated its website since 2015,” reports NBC. “The downtown New Orleans office has been closed, the staff has been cut to a handful and residents say their calls go unreturned.”
In 2016, Pitt made a show of calling for inspections of the homes. That never happened.
Though a spokesman, Pitt responded to NBC News with the claim Make It Right has “been coordinating repairs of homes experiencing problems since early 2018 and I have total faith in our team on the ground to see this through.”
He added, “I made a promise to the folks of the Lower Ninth to help them rebuild — it is a promise I intend to keep.”
On top of the construction problems, some residents claim the mold problems have made them sick.
Kamaria Allen purchased one of Pitt’s homes for $130,000 in 2011. It “now sits abandoned — mushrooms growing from its split siding, wooden boards propping up its sagging roof.”
After Allen was forced to abandon her own home, she moved in with her parents, who also bought one of Pitt’s homes:
Allen said her parents’ home hasn’t fared any better. Wood on the porch and wheelchair-lift is rotting, the stairway railing gave way under her mother and an inspector hired by Allen reported mold and improper ventilation, which Allen believes is making her and her family sick.
Allen’s father, Keith, 63, quit his job as a yacht builder in 2013 after a mysterious illness brought on near-constant tremors, which made it a struggle for him to open water bottles and button shirts. Her mother, Sharon, 65, has trouble breathing and suffers from frequent respiratory infections, and her brother Khalid, 20, has been in and out of the hospital in the last few years for issues including muscle tremors, impaired speech, breathing problems and memory loss. The family believes the symptoms are connected to the mold, and they say doctors have told them to leave the house, but they cannot afford to unless Make It Right buys it back.
Allen claims Make It Right will no longer return her calls.
Another Make it Right customer said that after she moved into her home in 2011, the first rain revealed “water pouring in under the door.” The company fixed the leak, but “water kept seeping into the walls whenever it rained. By 2012, West said she was getting near-constant migraines, which she now attributes to mold.”
NBC reports that “homeowners are holding onto the hope that Pitt will return and save the project.”