After Failed Effort to Help New Orleans, Brad Pitt Settles

Homes built by the actor's foundation after Hurricane Katrina are falling apart, said lawsuit
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2018 5:55 AM CDT
Updated Aug 18, 2022 1:06 AM CDT
New Orleans Residents Sue Brad Pitt Over Shoddy Homes
In this Dec. 1, 2008, file photo, Brad Pitt walks in the Lower 9th Ward between a home built by the Make It Right Foundation and a FEMA trailer in New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) Update: A $20.5 million settlement has been reached on behalf of the New Orleans homeowners who say their supposedly flood-proof homes started rotting away almost immediately after Brad Pitt's now-defunct charity foundation built them and residents moved in. The money will be used entirely on repairs and renovations for the homes, the Guardian reports. "You’re talking about a group of people who didn’t have an option to move and buy or rent a second home. This was their life savings and they were living in something that was deteriorating quickly around them. So they’re relieved and grateful," says the lead attorney for the class-action lawsuit. An environmental nonprofit not named in the lawsuit is paying the settlement on behalf of Pitt, who is one of its "celebrity advocates." Our original story from Sept. 2018 follows:

Brad Pitt earned a lot of admiration in New Orleans when his Make It Right Foundation began building affordable homes for residents in the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. The goodwill might be gone. Two residents sued the foundation Friday, and the proposed class-action suit makes a simple claim: The homes are falling apart, reports NBC News. Residents have raised a litany of issues—mold, rotting plywood, electrical and plumbing problems, bad ventilation, you name it. In fact, one of the homes—they sold for an average of $150,000—had to be demolished this summer, notes the AP. Local station WWL reports that Pitt's foundation sued a wood manufacturer in 2015, alleging that the company refused to replace defective wood.

“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,” says attorney Ron Austin. “We have filed to make Make It Right make it right.” The foundation, which built about 110 distinctive, brightly colored homes, spent about $12,000 each on 30 homes in 2014 to replace rotting lumber, and Pitt himself expressed satisfaction with the project as recently as 2015. "I get this swell of pride when I see this little oasis of color and the solar panels," he told the Times-Picayune. "I say, 'What's your utility bill?' And they'll throw something out like, '24 bucks' or something, and I feel fantastic." (Read more Brad Pitt stories.)

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