The media is centering this story around Brad Pitt. And Make It Right is his foundation. But the media is neglecting the Clinton angle.
Make It Right’s mission was to build 150 well-designed, green, affordable homes in the Lower 9th Ward, the area hardest hit by Katrina. As of 2016, the group reported spending $26.8 million building 109 homes, fueling the most visible recovery effort in an area still reeling from the storm.
But Allen and 11 other residents who spoke to NBC News, 10 of them on the record, say that many of the Make It Right homes are rotting and dangerous. They complain of mold and collapsing structures, electrical fires and gas leaks. They say the houses were built too quickly, with low-quality materials, and that the designs didn’t take into account New Orleans’ humid, rainy climate.
“This has been years of ongoing lies and broken promises,” Allen said in a recent interview in which she detailed Make It Right’s pledges and failures to repair her home.
As the problems worsened, the organization has all but disappeared. Make It Right hasn’t built a home, filed tax forms or updated its website since 2015. The downtown New Orleans office has been closed, the staff has been cut to a handful and residents say their calls go unreturned. While Pitt ordered inspections for the homes in 2016, according to a spokesperson, residents say they’re still waiting for the results and for much-needed repairs.
Linda Jackson, a longtime resident and founder of the Lower 9th Ward Homeowners Association, a group that advocates affordable homeownership and resident-driven redevelopment, said the majority of Make It Right’s homes are now vacant. “It’s just not working out,” she said.
It’s no surprise that this was a disaster.
Instead of bringing in people who knew what they were doing, Make It Right enlisted celebrity architects like Frank Gehry.
Gehry is a running joke and it’s hard to imagine him trying to design homes for poor black people. There’s a whiff of the Soviet architectural disasters here where ideological architects who were good Communists and terrible architects built houses for the workers that never worked. (Wolfe’s Bauhaus is also a good jumping off point.)
And it’s no surprise that the Clintons were involved.
Where were you when Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005?
In Calgary, up in Canada, making the movie “The Assassination of Jesse James.” I couldn’t get my eyes off the TV. It was frustrating seeing all those people on rooftops screaming for help. It was abhorrent. I was gutted. I remember thinking we can do better in America. Everybody seemed to make mistakes at a federal, local and state level. I used to ride my bike around the Lower 9th — usually going to the Holy Cross area to look around. My instinct said that we have to find a way for those people to find a road home. New homes were clearly going to be needed.
When did the idea of Make It Right houses come into focus?
I got involved with Global Green and various Bill Clinton initiatives. I met a lot of smart people. But nobody was doing what I thought needed to be done. Look, I’m an architecture junkie. And the holy grail of architecture is finding ways to design sustainable urban communities. The Lower 9th had become a clean slate. Everything had been washed away. So quite naively — and I know I’m naive — I said let’s start at ground zero, the very historic neighborhood that got devastated by Katrina. We brought architect William McDonough into the picture and things took off. We started building prototypes. The Lower 9th is the iconic spot of Katrina. It’s where the levees breached. It represents a marginalized people stuck in a man-made disaster. I met Katrina victims who had been given FEMA trailers and had nothing to hook them up to. Others had formaldehyde problems. What was the message? We were telling people to come home and yet when they got back to New Orleans they were treated in a substandard way. I just thought it was atrocious.
So Brad Pitt is an idiot. Make It Right was a project of people who didn’t understand how to build houses in New Orleans.
Oprah, Aziz Ansari, Ellen DeGeneres and the usual celeb clown show pushed this. And Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative got involved.
President Bill Clinton today joined Brad Pitt and 600 students from around the world to formally break ground on Pitt’s Make it Right project, which will construct 150 sustainable and affordable homes in the Lower 9th Ward.
Students participating in the project have gathered this weekend in New Orleans for the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University. Held at Tulane University, this meeting convened students, university administrators, and activists together to take action towards solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.
“It is only fitting that we culminate a weekend focused on youth service by turning words in action,” President Clinton said. “I’m pleased that Make It Right would invite us to be here today, to give us all the opportunity to restore the historic Lower 9th Ward and help residents rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.”
Bill Clinton just can’t stop “helping” black people.