Brad Pitt foundation faces legal action over New Orleans homes

A LAWYER plans to sue actor Brad Pitt’s foundation over the degradation of homes built in an area of New Orleans that was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The forthcoming lawsuit against Pitt’s Make It Right foundation will be filed on behalf of some Lower Ninth Ward residents, who lawyer Ron Austin told local station WWL-TV have reported sicknesses, headaches, and infrastructural issues.

Enlisting award-winning architects, Pitt founded the venture in 2007, two years after Katrina devastated the city and essentially washed away what would become the Make It Right enclave.

media_cameraBrad Pitt in the Lower 9th Ward near a home built by the Make It Right Foundation in 2008. A lawyer plans to sue Pitt’s foundation over the degradation of the homes. Picture: AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Construction began in 2008, working toward replacing the lost housing with 150 avant-garde dwellings that were storm-safe, solar-powered, highly insulated, and “green.”

The homes were available at an average price of $150,000 ($A206,000) to residents who received resettlement financing, government grants and donations from the foundation itself.

But 10 years and more than $26 million ($A36 million) later, construction has halted at around 40 houses short of Pitt’s goal, and some homes are falling apart.

media_cameraNewly constructed homes by the Make it Right Foundation have allegedly fallen into disrepair prompting a lawsuit. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

Residents have reported sagging porches, mildewing wood and leaky roofs.

“Essentially, Make It Right was making a lot of promises to come back and fix the homes that they initially sold these people and have failed to do so,” Mr Austin said.

The foundation in 2014 did spend an average of $12,000 each on 39 homes to replace the deteriorating TimberSIL lumber, which was billed as environmentally friendly, weatherproof and durable, Times-Picayune reported.

Make It Right then sued TimberSIL for $500,000 ($A686,000), but it’s unclear whether that dispute was settled.

Despite that expenditure, a year later, Pitt expressed satisfaction with what had turned into a proper Crescent City neighbourhood.

“I get this swell of pride when I see this little oasis of colour and the solar panels,” Pitt told The Times-Picayune in 2015.

“I drive into the neighbourhood and I see people on their porch, and I ask them how is their house treating them? And they say, ‘Good.’ And I say ‘What’s your utility bill?’ And they’ll throw something out like, ‘24 bucks’ or something, and I feel fantastic,” said Pitt.

Earlier this summer, Make It Right hit the headlines in New Orleans again with the demolition of one of the houses.

media_cameraA damaged home in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
media_cameraThe Ninth Ward in New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina with many losing their homes. Picture: Robyn Beck/AFP Photo

Having been unoccupied for years, the mouldering house demolished in June was described by The Times-Picayune as “a tattered loaf of rotting wood, fraying tarpaulin and ominous open doorways.”

Fed up, resident Constance Fowler made City Hall aware of several building code violations, and The New Orleans Advocate reported that Make It Right paid for the demolition, citing a contract.

When local station WDSU-TV reported on the blighted house and other residential problems in April, the Make it Right foundation provided a written statement.

“Our homeowners’ wellbeing and privacy are some of our top priorities and we work closely with them to address their concerns,” the statement read.

“Each situation is different and we are currently co-ordinating the necessary follow up with the appropriate parties to address any areas of concern.”

The report didn’t indicate how many residents would join Austin’s lawsuit, and many residents quoted in news articles this year said that despite some problems, they were appreciative of the foundation’s work.

media_cameraBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie met on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith in 2005. Picture: Collection Christophel/Regency Enterprises/New Regency Pictures

The possible lawsuit is the latest in a series of woes plaguing Pitt since his divorce from Angelina Jolie who he met on the set of the film Mr & Mrs Smith in 2005.

Originally published as More woes for Brad Pitt

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