Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation is under fire after its promise to construct 50 new single-family homes in a Kansas City, Mo. neighborhood has yet to be started.
The New Orleans-based nonprofit organization, that helped rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, announced last year that it would begin working on the development of Kansas City homes starting in May 2015, but the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that little-to-no progress has been made.
The organization purchased six parcels of land in Manheim Park from Aug. 18, 2015 to Feb. 4, 2016, but construction hasn’t started, the Star reported. The foundation hasn’t explained why construction has yet to begin and top officials have all declined to comment on matter.
Tim Duggan, a local architect who was hired by the Make It Right Foundation as the lead director of innovations, no longer works for the company.
The organization appears to have experienced some turnover since its initiation in 2007. Its CEO, Tom Darden stepped down and the foundation's website has no current CEO listed.
Dianne Cleaver, executive director of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative that is tasked with rehabilitating Kansas City’s east side, acknowledged that the organization had experienced some changes.
“I think they have seven or nine board members, and four of them are gone, they’re being replaced,” Cleaver told the Star. “So they seem to be just in some restructuring, directional challenges.”
However, others brushed off the lack of progress in construction as “time delay.” Gloria Fisher-Ortiz, the executive director of community development corporation Westside Housing, is still hopeful that the Manheim Park project will be complete and said that she was in contact with the Make It Right Foundation.
Rodney Knott, a former neighborhood association president in Manheim Park and director of the nonprofit organization ReEngage, was more skeptical. He called the replacement of the foundation’s CEO “troubling.”
Brad Pitt established the Make It Right Foundation in 2007 and took on the task of rebuilding the houses in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward where broken levees caused major flooding along the Industrial Canal. The organization was responsible for building about 110 homes.
Thom Pepper, the executive director of Common Ground Relief, told the Star that some of the residents who had their homes built for them complained to the foundation about the roofs, which forced the organization to rebuild some of the houses.
Wood that was painted as environmentally friendly and used for the homes’ decks and some exterior features also rotted. The foundation sued Timber Treatment Technologies, which provided the wood.
Pepper also said that a ton of money was spent on building the houses in New Orleans.
The Kansas City Star, citing a 2013 report from the architecture website ArchDaily, reported that Make It Right spent $24 million to build 86 houses in New Orleans at the time – about $280,000 per home.
Make It Right also received the largest amount of funding from Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. It received $3.8 million of the $30 million that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city. The foundation was able to build 44 houses with the allocated funds.
With the money spent in New Orleans, Pepper told the paper that he was surprised when he learned of the foundation’s plans to build homes in Kansas City and for veterans in Newark, N.J.
“We were like, what do you mean, Newark and Kansas City?” Pepper said. “You haven’t finished what you said you were going to do here and you’re expanding into other markets. What’s going on?”
Officials in Missouri also questioned the foundation’s plans.
Cleaver told the paper that the foundation said in an email about three weeks ago that it was still “reassessing the situation.”