Residents are Frustrated by Broken Promises and Lack of Follow Up
Make It Right — a charity organization with Brad Pitt at its forefront — pledged to build 150 sturdy, environmentally conscious and affordable homes in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans.
However, now residents are taken aback by the fragility of the houses.
These houses were made flood-resistant and colorful, coming in colors like teal, yellow, and light purple — and only for $130,000. This seemed too good to be true for the low income families of New Orleans. And now, as they suspected, it was.
As of 2016, Make It Right has spent about $26.8 million on 109 homes thus far, encouraging Lower 9th Ward residents to return to their homes destroyed by the hurricane.
Kamaria Allen — a resident of the Lower 9th Ward — was impressed by these new houses and decided to buy one from the foundation in 2011. However, Allen now says the homes are rotting and breaking down. The structural foundation is not sound, allowing for electrical fires and gas leaks — and due to the use of low-quality materials and a fast-paced building environment, there is also now mold and rotting structures.
When residents like Allen attempted to contact Make It Right, the organization often ignored them and pretty much went AWOL — the foundation hasn't built a house, filed taxes, or made changes to their website since 2015. Staff have been laid off and their New Orleans office has shut down — even inspections that Pitt asked for in 2016 have gone without progress.
Linda Jackson is a resident of New Orleans and founder of the Lower 9th Ward Homeowners Association — she confirmed that these homes are now mostly vacant. Allen can attest as her home is now overrun and has numerous weeds growing out of it.
Residents have been pretty quiet about this issue so far due to nondisclosure agreements or plain loyalty to the foundation that brought attention to the hurricane disaster. However, it seems like Pitt has only done this for publicity — and residents now understand this as two of them have sued the actor and his foundation.
"We began an extensive review of homes just after the tenth anniversary of Katrina. Thanks to the dedication of the MIR team, we have 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," said a spokesperson for Pitt to NBC. "I made a promise to the folks of the Lower Ninth to help them rebuild — it is a promise I intend to keep."
Numerous accounts have been said against Pitt and the foundation — but now, all the residents can do is wait. They understand that homes built this fast and at such a low cost had to be too good to be true and now, it's up to the foundation to fix the problem.
Amber Wang is a freelancer for Popdust and various other sites. She is also a student at NYU, a photographer and intern at the Stonewall National Monument.
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