The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on New Orleans is around the corner on Aug. 29, and Brad Pitt’s Make It Right organization plans to honor the day with the unveiling of a new tiny home.
Founded in 2007, Make It Right’s mission is to help build homes, buildings and communities for people in need, all with a focus on green living. Since it began, teams have built 109 LEED Platinum-certified homes within a 20-block area of the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that was absolutely devastated by the hurricane in 2005. This will be the organization’s first tiny home.
According to a blog post by communications director Taylor Royle, the 496-square-foot high-tech mini house will have two stories. A living room, full kitchen, full bathroom and washer/dryer for laundry will be available downstairs, while the upstairs will hold the bedroom, closet and work area/desk.
It will also have solar-power, energy-conserving appliances and recycled countertops, among other environmentally-friendly features. And of course, hurricane-resistant features will also be incorporated.
The origin story of the collection of angular, brightly painted homes called Make It Right has become a piece of New Orleans lore. The Lower 9th Ward neighborhood near the Claiborne Avenue bridge was more or less wiped out by floodwater surging through a gap in the levee wall in 2005. Then, as if by Hollywood magic, Brad Pitt appeared to attempt to rebuild it. At the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the flood, 109 homes stand where there once was only mud and wreckage. More homes are on the way.
“I’ll tell you, every time I drive over the Claiborne bridge, no matter what frustration I might be dealing with at the moment, I get this well of pride when I see this little oasis of color and the solar panels,” Pitt said in a telephone conversation Friday (Aug. 15) from Los Angeles.
An ecologist, architecture enthusiast and part-time New Orleans resident, Pitt called on the top building designers of the region, nation and world to draw up houses with striking appearances that married advanced environmental practices with affordable building methods. He also founded a nonprofit organization to see that those design gems rose on the empty landscape.
“I drive into the neighborhood and I see people on their porch,” Pitt said, “and I ask them how is their house treating them? And they say, ‘Good.’ And I say what’s your utility bill? And they’ll throw something out like, ’24 bucks’ or something, and I feel fantastic. It’s a reminder of why we’re there. It’s a reminder of why we push like we push. It makes it all worthwhile.”
• x001 Magazines – The Times Picayune.
Actor Brad Pitt didn’t have much experience with financing forgivable loans when he built his first home in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Lower 9th Ward in 2008.
But seven years later, Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation has gained worldwide attention for the eye-catching home designs and “green” building features — such as solar panels and rainwater collectors — that it has incorporated into a growing development for low-income residents seeking to return to the neighborhood.
“I walked into it blind, just thinking, ‘People need homes; I know people who make great homes. Let’s solve this problem of the inequality and low-income housing in a place that’s been ravaged by the environment,’ ” the 51-year-old Pitt said Friday in a telephone interview.
Although Pitt and his wife, actress Angelina Jolie, put their French Quarter mansion on the market earlier this year, he said they’re not planning to leave the city for good and may buy another home in time.
A decade after Katrina’s floodwaters destroyed more than 5,300 homes in a neighborhood once known for having the highest rate of black home ownership in New Orleans, Pitt’s efforts have paid off: His foundation has spent $26.8 million to build 109 homes in a 20-block area.
In part because of his efforts, the neighborhood has managed to bounce back somewhat, though slowly. It now has about 37 percent of its population before the storm — a lower figure than most other devastated parts of the city.
Though he said there’s still work to do, Pitt considers the Make It Right development to be an example of how to rebuild in a neighborhood that some city and federal officials had suggested should not be rebuilt at all in the storm’s aftermath.
He called it “an oasis of color, an … oasis of how to build with dignity for low-income housing, and I see it as a template for how we can build our cities and certainly our neighborhoods in other areas in the future.”
• x002 Magazines – The New Orleans Advocate.
The first five of 20 eco-friendly modular homes arrived on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and are being set on their foundations this week.
Founded by actor Brad Pitt, the Make It Right foundation and the Fort Peck Tribes are hoping to have the first five families moved into their new homes by Aug. 1. Plans are to have the entire housing project filled by Dec. 1.
The homes, built in Washington state, are being laid down in a sustainable village project on the old Poplar airport site. They are built from state-of-the art recycled materials and are LEED Platinum standard, foundation officials said.
The tribes are in the process of preselecting the tenants to live in the homes and conducted a lottery system among the 127 applicants. The tenants will ultimately be able to own the homes.
“We’ve had a fantastic application run and are now working on certification (of residents),” said Deb Madison, a board member of the tribes’ company, Integrated Solutions. The company is the developer of the homes, which were designed by foundation architects with input from Assiniboine and Sioux tribal members.
In 2011, Brad Pitt – on behalf of his Make it Right Foundation made a promise to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation that his non-profit would build 20 environmentally friendly homes at no cost to the Fort Peck Community.
Though Pitt stated the homes would be free, a reported $600,000 was fronted by Fort Peck tribal leaders and a plethora of problems continued to rear their heads in the face of developing the homes. In addition to sewage and land infrastructure problems, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also weighed in on the project – adding to the series of delays.
With all said, Taylor Royle, Communications Director of the Make it Right Foundation informed ICTMN, that the homes are on their way to finally being completed after several years of frustrating delays.
“Our first 10 homes are currently under construction and should be completed in July. We expect the remaining 10 homes (20 total) to be completed in the fall,” wrote Royle in an email to ICTMN.
Actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation is suing the maker of a supposedly glass-infused wood that the nonprofit group used to build decks and stairs at dozens of homes in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Lower 9th Ward. The group says the innovative product began rotting prematurely despite a 40-year guarantee.
The 12-page lawsuit, filed Monday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, alleges that South Carolina-based Timber Treatment Technologies LLC intentionally sold a defective product. The lawsuit calls the episode “an egregious example of a manufacturer’s repeated misrepresentations, breaches of warranty and knowing deceptions.”
Make It Right used the glass-infused wood, called TimberSIL, from 2008 to 2010. By 2013, the nonprofit was “being notified by residents that the decks and other exterior elements in almost all of the homes in which TimberSIL wood had been utilized were exhibiting signs of rot and decay” and taking on a dark gray tinge, according to the lawsuit.
Timber Treatment founder and CEO Karen Slimak did not return a message seeking comment Monday.
Pitt’s foundation has built 104 energy-efficient homes in the Lower 9th Ward, according to the lawsuit.
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