NEW ORLEANS – Actor Brad Pitt’s foundation has sued a New Orleans architect, saying defective design work led to leaks and other flaws in homes built for residents of an area that was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday says damages caused by architect John C. Williams could cost Pitt’s Make It Right foundation more than $15 million, news outlets reported. The foundation paid Williams’ firm millions of dollars to produce architectural drawings for more than 100 homes under the program, which was supposed to provide Lower 9th Ward residents with sustainable and affordable new homes.
Enlisting award-winning architects, Pitt founded the venture two years after Katrina devastated the city and essentially washed away what would become the Make It Right enclave. Construction began in 2008, working toward replacing the lost housing with 150 avant-garde dwellings that were storm-safe, solar-powered, highly insulated and “green.” But water intrusion began cropping up in the first homes within a year of their completion and construction was discontinued in 2016.
The foundation says Williams was responsible for several failures to adequately waterproof the structures, including insufficiently sloped roofs. The lawsuit says Williams’ attempts at repairs were largely a failure and that he kept Make It Right management in the dark about the defects.
A derelict 7-year-old home that was so rotted it was demolished at the insistence of neighbours in June. Williams had been granted a permit to replace the flat roof on the leaking home in 2015. He had acknowledged in a June interview that one or two of the Make It Right buildings “may be falling apart.” Williams didn’t immediately return a request for comment, news outlets reported Wednesday.
The lawsuit comes after New Orleans attorney Ron Austin brought a class-action lawsuit against Make It Right that accused the charity of building substandard homes that are deteriorating at a rapid pace. On Tuesday, Make It Right blamed the rapid deterioration on the architect they hired.
The lawsuit against Williams does not hold him liable for the damages to 39 homes caused by the use of an experimental weatherproof wood product called TimberSIL that was rapidly ruined by the south Louisiana environment. In 2014, Make It Right sued the manufacturer of TimberSIL for $500,000, though it’s unclear if the company was made to pay.
In a prepared statement, Make It Right pledged to “continue to work proactively with homeowners in the Lower 9th Ward.” The non-profit organization declined further comment.