Brad Pitt's post-Katrina housing project faces even more backlash after residents discover their homes are rotting and caving in

Brad Pitt make it rightJulie Dermansky/Corbis/Getty Images

  • Brad Pitt's ambitious housing project tried to rebuild a New Orleans neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina, but residents are now complaining that their homes are rotting, collapsing, and caving in.
  • The damages have generated multiple lawsuits, including one against Pitt and his foundation, Make It Right.
  • Pitt's lawyers petitioned to have him removed from the suit, which has now moved to federal court.

Brad Pitt's nonprofit foundation, Make It Right, started with the goal of helping New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As the city's Lower Ninth Ward recovered from the deadly Category 5 storm in 2005, the foundation sought to satisfy its most pressing need: housing.

"We went into it incredibly naive," Pitt told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 2015. "Just thinking we can build homes - how hard is that?"

The project's lofty goals, like equipping the homes with sustainable building materials and energy-saving appliances, were difficult to pull off.

Twelve years after the start of Make It Right, residents have reported that units are rotting, collapsing, and caving in. One resident told NBC News that mold and improper ventilation in her home caused her family to come down with a slew of health issues, including respiratory infections, tremors, and memory problems.

Read more: Brad Pitt's post-Katrina housing project is said to be rotting and collapsing - and the potential health effects are inciting a major lawsuit

In September, attorney Ron Austin filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of two residents, claiming that Pitt and the foundation failed to alert homeowners of issues with the design and materials. That same month, Make It Right filed a lawsuit of its own against the project's executive architect, John Williams, and his firm.

The saga doesn't stop there.

Brad Pitt nancy pelosiBrad Pitt and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speak to the media following a meeting to discuss the 'Make it Right' project on March 5, 2009 in Washington, DC.Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The homeowners' lawsuit is now headed to federal court, with the defendants arguing that repairs could cost them $20 million. About a month after this news was announced, Pitt's lawyers petitioned to have him removed from the suit.

Although Pitt has reportedly left the board of Make It Right, a spokesperson for the actor said he was still coordinating with the foundation to repair homes as of September.

In addition to filing a lawsuit, Make It Right has undertaken its own efforts to distance itself from the damage.

NBC News reported that Make It Right asked some residents to sign nondisclosure agreements in exchange for repairs or settlements. The foundation has also stopped updating its website and posting to its social media accounts.

The foundation also hasn't filed a tax form or built a home in years, according to NBC.

Make it right homes brad pittHomes in the 'Make it Right' complex looked promising when they were first constructed.Julie Dermansky/Corbis/Getty Images

Make It Right did not respond to Business Insider's requests for comment.

Residents have told multiple news outlets that the foundation won't return their calls.

Austin's lawsuit claims that Make It Right inspected homes in 2016, 2017, and 2018, but did not disclose findings to homeowners. The suit also alleges that the foundation held off on making repairs until residents signed NDAs.

"Make It Right was very good at pacifying people and putting them off, and pacifying people and putting them off," Austin told Architectural Digest. "They might come back and fix one thing, but not everything."

In over a decade of existence, Make It Right has built more than 100 homes in New Orleans. Many of the homes are now abandoned, and at least one has been demolished due to rotting and rain damage. Other residents remain trapped in 30-year mortgages that they cannot afford to break.

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