NEW ORLEANS — One of the homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation was torn down Tuesday after the city deemed it was in imminent danger of collapse.
The demolition is just the latest hiccup for the organization that built and sold new and uniquely designed homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"This is the second demolition of a new construction home,” said Constance Fowler, a neighbor who has lived in a Make It Right Home since 2014. "The home next me was 7 years old when it was demolished."
The most recent demolition sits on Reynes Street. It was built by the Make It Right Foundation and sold in 2011. Neighbors say there were first problems with mold and water intrusion. Eventually, Make It Right bought it back from the owner but then they did nothing, according to Fowler.
"Make it Right has owned it for many years and it's just been sitting here with the lawn mowed every two weeks and fresh paint on it hiding the problems," Fowler said.
The property sat, rotted and eventually became an eyesore.
"Everything from rodents to people going in and out,” said neighbor, Eric Dunbar, whose original 9th Ward home was replaced by a Make It Right house after Katrina. “You know, a lot of burglaries."
It isn't the only problem for the foundation. Over the years, neighbors have reported issues ranging from rotting wood, water leaks and foundation issues.
In 2018, attorney Ron Austin filed a lawsuit against Make It Right. Austin says the foundation's legal team has been defending, denying and delaying for months.
"It's really a slap in the face to the people of the community. Those people literally used their last dime to buy those homes," Austin said.
The lawsuit accuses Make It Right of building and selling substandard houses. Make It Right has also sued John C. Williams architects. When we have talked to Williams in the past he has called that lawsuit baseless and insulting.
Dunbar isn’t a part of the lawsuit, but his Make It Right house leaks when it rains and he’d like some help.
"I reported it several times. They come out and look at it and say we are going to get to you and I haven't heard from them. It's been three years," he said.
Repeated attempts to call Make It Right have been unsuccessful.