Brad Pitt is caught in a hurricane of litigation over defective houses his Make It Right foundation built in New Orleans and he can’t find a graceful exit from the storm.
Make It Right appears to be barely functioning. The charity reportedly stopped building new houses in 2016. Its website hasn’t been updated since December 2015, and social-media accounts went idle in mid-2017. Like most nonprofit orgs, Make It Right has publicly posted its tax filings and financial statements for several years, but the last available filing is for the 2014 tax year. Years ago, the charity partnered with other groups to build veterans housing in Newark, New Jersey, and affordable apartments in Kansas City, Missouri.
New Orleans homeowners are suing Pitt and the foundation, claiming fraud over defective designs and shoddy construction. Pitt and other former foundation officers are petitioning to be removed from that suit, and he and the organization are suing the architect who oversaw the project in the city’s devastated Lower Ninth Ward. The charity has made repairs to rotting and collapsed porches.
In December, the city of New Orleans warned the 109 Make It Right homeowners that natural-gas meters in their houses might be improperly installed — a dangerous condition that could lead to gas leaks and explosions.
For Pitt — an architectural buff who hoped to pioneer new designs for affordable, green housing — the venture has been an embarrassing disaster.
“The easy thing for him would have been to walk away, but then he would be accused of abandoning the people he promised to help,” my source said.
Pitt — after buying a mansion in the French Quarter and raising millions for the foundation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — was busy making movies. He let other people run the project, which aimed to build 150 green-energy houses.
“Brad was a co-founder, but he wasn’t on the board for years,” the source said. “When the problems arose, he committed to help make it right.”
Ron Austin, the lawyer representing the homeowners, told me, “According to their 2015 tax filings, the foundation is insolvent. If Mr. Pitt succeeds in getting himself removed from the lawsuit, these residents will be without any remedy. It’s obvious he is trying to cut and run.”
Austin said his clients are stuck with 30-year mortgages. “It’s sad and scary. They don’t have anywhere to go, and they can’t afford to move.”