After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, actor Brad Pitt created a charity called the “Make It Right Foundation,” which built homes for those in the city’s Lower 9th Ward. The homes were supposed to be “affordable, high-quality, environmentally sustainable” and “safe,” according to the foundation’s website. But an NBC investigation has found that the homes are falling apart, and the organization has “all but disappeared.”
NBC spoke to Kamaria Allen, who purchased one of the Make It Right homes for $130,000 in 2011 but has since abandoned the house which has “mushrooms growing from its split siding” and “wooden boards propping up its sagging roof,” NBC reports.
The news outlet spoke to 11 residents (10 on the record) who said the houses are “rotting and dangerous.”
“They complain of mold and collapsing structures, electrical fires and gas leaks,” NBC reported. “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 Make It Right has disappeared.
“Make It Right hasn’t built a home, filed tax forms or updated its website since 2015,” NBC reported. “The downtown New Orleans office has been closed, the staff has been cut to a handful and residents say their calls go unreturned. While Pitt ordered inspections for the homes in 2016, according to a spokesperson, residents say they’re still waiting for the results and for much-needed repairs.”
Last week, two residents filed a lawsuit against Pitt and the foundation. In August 2012, an environmental inspection company hired by Make It Right reported it had found mold in Allen’s kitchen cabinets and basidiospores, which ““are often associated with advance mold rot caused by a chronic moisture condition.” Allen had previously complained to her doctor of headaches and constant fatigue. The rest of her family lives in another home built by Make It Right.
“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,” NBC reported. “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 received a cash settlement from Make it Right in 2012. She was repaid her down payment and a year’s worth of mortgage payments. She signed a nondisclosure form, but broke it to speak to NBC in an attempt to help others.
Pitt wanted to help people — an admirable goal — but just because something is billed as charitable and environmentally friendly shouldn’t free it from initial scrutiny. People like Allen, her family, and her neighbors aren’t helped when political correction trumps safety.