Actor Brad Pitt has maintained a residence in New Orleans for several years. He was acutely aware of the need for new housing after Hurricane Katrina, so his Make It Right foundation stepped in and built housing in the Lower Ninth Ward. The foundation hired award-winning architects in 2007 and construction began in 2008. The goal was to build 150 aesthetically unique houses that were storm safe and solar powered. The foundation sold them for $150,000 each to residents who received resettlement financing, government grants and money from the Make It Right Foundation. 10 years later
The foundation has spent an estimated $26 million so far and has built 110 homes. According to reports, many of the finished homes are falling apart with sagging porches, leaking roofs and mildewing wood.
Part of the problem was the eco-friendly building product TimberSIL lumber, which proved to not be as durable and weatherproof as was initially claimed. The foundation subsequently repaired 39 homes in 2014, spending an average of $12,000 per house. Make It Right then took legal action against the manufacturer, gaining $500,000 in compensation.
Many residents thankful
There is no report on the number residents who will join this lawsuit. Many have gone on record as being satisfied and thankful overall for the new homes, pointing out that they would not have otherwise been able to afford to buy a house.
Legal issues still evolving
While the profile of the Make It Right foundation’s founder make them a target, it is far from clear what Make It Right is liable for. Developers typically are obligated to provide habitable houses, which is based on contracts between homeowner and developer as well as developer and contractors and subcontractors.
Despite selling homes well below market value, was Make It Right negligent? Depending on the sale agreement, homeowners can sue the developer for breach of contract or breach of warranty.
These legal concerns are all reasons why it always advisable to have an attorney look over a contract. They can review the agreement and see if one side or specific parties on one side are likely to be liable for issues involving premises liability and other legal areas.