Monday, 17 August 2015

Brad Pitt transformed the lives of 109 New Orleans families who lost their homes

How Brad Pitt transformed the lives of New Orleans families after Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with furious and deadly force this month ten years ago - and no celebrity is more attuned to the anniversary than Brad Pitt.
Pitt, who recently listed his and Angelina Jolie's five-bedroom French Quarter home for $6.5 million, has been working to rebuild destroyed houses in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward since the monster hurricane left its path of destruction.

'We went into it incredibly na├»ve,' the megastar told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 'just thinking we can build homes - how hard is that?'
A lot harder than he thought, it turns out. But that didn't stop him, nor the area's residents, from plugging along, and now Pitt is thrilled that 109 colorful, sturdy, ecofriendly homes dot the land that following Katrina was nothing but mud and debris and torn-apart lives.
'I get this well of pride when I see this little oasis of color and the solar panels,' the dad of six told the paper.
As a part-time NOLA resident and amateur architecture enthusiast, Pitt wanted his foundation, Make It Right, to build homes that not only suited the residents' needs, but were well-designed, environmentally-friendly, and not only cheap to make, but to live in.
'I drive into the neighborhood and I see people on their porch, 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.

Superstar Brad Pitt with two cuties from the Lower Ninth Ward (above) in New Orleans, where his foundation Make It Right has built 109 homes in the area decimated after Hurricane Katrina

Pitt was also able to use his considerable powers of persuasion to lure some of the world's best architects, including Shigeru Ban, Thom Mayne, and even Frank Gehry, to design some of the futuristic homes.
The area has become one of New Orleans' tourist attractions. 
But it wasn't easy getting to this point - Pitt says that he had no concept of the bureaucratic snags he would have to hurdle, including forgivable loan structures, family financial counseling, lot rights, and HUD grants.

He was also determined to make the homes aesthetically pleasing and allow the residents to give their input - after all, they were the ones who would be living there.
'The inhabitants, the families are the ones who designed the neighborhood,' the 'World War Z' star said. 'They had choices in front of them. They picked the houses to suit their needs. They picked the colors.'
The homes, with their sharp angles and modern aesthetic, were going to look much different from the typical baroque NOLA fare, but Pitt was also determined to make the homes environmentally sustainable.
'You do not have to build low-income housing with the cheapest materials that keep families in a poverty trap,' he said. 'Whether that be running up high utility bills or with toxic materials that run up your doctor bills. It doesn't have to be that way.'
Pitt says that rebuilding the neighborhood cost $26.8 million, for an average of $150,000 per home.
The cash for the project came from federal loans and donations. It's unclear if Pitt used any of his personal income to make the project come true - but he certainly put in his time.
Pitt said he will be off making a movie, the specifics of which he wouldn't divulge other than that it is a 'satirical' film about war, during the tenth anniversary. However, he says he looks forward to coming back to the city to film.
'New Orleans is such a great place to shoot and the rebates are phenomenal, so it's not a big fight with the studios,' he said. 'They're more than happy for us to get back down there. It's a very rich place to shoot. It's my excuse to get back there.'

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