The Make it Right Foundation, the Brad Pitt-backed non-profit that built more than 100 homes for New Orleans residents displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, currently faces legal action due to structural defects, insect infestations and other construction issues.
At least six properties sit abandoned, and two were demolished just seven years after being built due to mold issues, according to Insider. Residents of Louisiana’s 9th Ward filed a class action lawsuit against Make It Right, referred to in the suit simply as “The Foundation,” in 2018 for allegedly selling them “defectively and improperly constructed homes.”
Make It Right was launched in 2007 with the goal of “providing high-quality, energy efficient housing to families in need,” and “assist in the sustainable redevelopment of New Orleans,” according to the suit. Within just a few years of construction, many of the houses began experiencing serious structural issues, including rotting wood, leaks and mold growth. (RELATED: Cities Look To Tiny Houses For Cheaper Housing Alternatives)
The homes also lacked features essential to protect properties from New Orleans’ heavy rainfall, including rain gutters, overhangs, waterproof paint and covered beams, Insider reported.
Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation was sued by two residents of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans who charged that Pitt’s charity sold them “defectively and improperly constructed homes,” according to the lawsuit. https://t.co/57aBNRMgXz
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 10, 2018
The Foundation was allegedly aware of the construction defects by their own engineers but failed to notify homeowners, who would have been protected by the state’s New Home Warranty Act, according to the suit.
Residents began noticing issues with their homes around 2013, but “detrimentally relied on continued promises by The Foundation and its employees and agents that they intended to repair the problems,” according to the suit.
The Foundation made arrangements for inspections in 2016 by Houston-based engineering firm Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger. According to the suit, the firm conducted the inspections but denied homeowners the ability to view the engineering reports, telling residents that the reports were “not yet ready” or repeatedly ignoring their requests.
“While the citizens of the 9th Ward are grateful to Brad Pitt, they were forced to file this lawsuit because the Make It Right Foundation built substandard homes that are deteriorating at a rapid pace while the homeowners are stuck with mortgages on properties that have diminished values,” attorney Ron Austin told NBC News in a 2018 interview.
“It’s really a slap in the face to the people of the community,” Austin told New Orleans-based outlet 4WWL in 2018. “Those people literally used their last dime to buy those homes.”
Pitt’s legal team argued that he should not be sued over the failed housing. However, a judge ruled that he would be named as a defendant in the case due to still being listed as The Foundation’s board member in 2018 and his role as the organization’s founder, according to Insider.
One of Make It Right’s 2018 tax filings reveals that a whopping $1,064,282 was spent on legal fees, as opposed to the $40,975 that went to construction costs that year.
“I don’t blame Brad Pitt,” one of the residents, referred to only as “David,” told Insider. “He had a vision to build low-income houses and get people back in the Lower Ninth Ward.”