Interview With a Housing Vampire

Brad Pitt denies responsibility in Make It Right Foundation lawsuit

Architecture News Professional Practice Southwest
A Make it Right home designed by Adjaye Associates (James Ewing/OTTO)
A Make it Right home designed by Adjaye Associates (James Ewing/OTTO)

After a class action lawsuit against Brad Pitt‘s Make It Right Foundation was moved from civil to federal court on November 7, Pitt’s lawyers have submitted a motion asking that Pitt be removed as a defendant in the case. Although the actor founded and directed the New Orleans–based housing nonprofit, his lawyers claim that he had no role in actually designing or constructing the allegedly faulty housing at the center of the lawsuit.

Make It Right, founded by Pitt in 2007 to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, is facing a class-action lawsuit for selling what Lower Ninth Ward residents allege were defective, easily-damaged homes.

From 2008 through early 2016, Make It Right attracted Pritzker Prize winners and big-name studios such as KieranTimberlake, Adjaye Associates, Thom Mayne of Morphosis, Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, and more to build experimental, sustainable homes in the hurricane-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. A total of $26 million was spent to build 109 affordable homes in the neighborhood, and the project initially appeared to be a success and drew design-minded tourists to the area.

The lawsuit, which alleges that Make It Right committed fraud, contract breaches, and engaged in deceptive trade practices, is looking to wring millions in repair fees from the foundation and its former top officials.

Make It Right, which sued their principal architect John C. Williams on September 19 in civil court on allegations of providing defective design work, acknowledged that fixing rain-damaged homes could cost up to $20 million. Lawyers representing the class action plaintiffs filed a motion asking that the case be transferred to federal court because three of the former officers live in North Carolina, because the final settlement could top $5 million, and because Make It Right was incorporated in Delaware.

As for Brad Pitt’s involvement, his lawyers claim that even if the plaintiffs’ complaints against the foundation have merit, Pitt shouldn’t be included in the lawsuit. While Pitt founded and fundraised for the charity, he claims his involvement didn’t extend to anything approaching the actual design of the buildings. Notably, Pitt is only asking that he be excused from the lawsuit, not that the case not proceed. As Nola noted, this is the first time Pitt has spoken publicly about Make It Right since the 2015 Katrina anniversary.

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