August 29th will mark the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans.
In the decade since one of the worst storms in U.S. history killed 1,883 people and caused an estimated $108 billion of damage, Brad Pitt is joining with the people of New Orleans in the ongoing efforts at recovery.
His foundation, Make It Right, helps build homes for people in need. But they go even further than that: they build eco-friendly homes that make the cost of living cheaper.
"I drive into the neighborhood and I see people on their porch," Pitt told The Times-Picayune. "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."
The area hit worst by the storm was the Lower Ninth Ward, a section of New Orleans that saw 5,363 homes destroyed and was essentially turned into mud over the course of a few days.
But that's not all...
Make It Right is also providing financial assistance to ensure that people in the community can buy the homes they're living in. It has given "$5.2 million in supplementary loans that needn't be repaid and another half-million to cover up-front mortgage costs."
That money has come mostly from donations and federal grants, though contributions have fluctuated over the past decade, most notably plummeting during the financial crisis.
There have been other road bumps, too. Stories broke early in 2014 that some of the homes were already rotting, though the foundation has acted quickly to repair them. Pitt said he himself went into the project somewhat naively.
"Just thinking we can build homes — how hard is that?" he said. "And not understanding forgivable loan structures and family financial counseling and getting the rights to lots and HUD grants and so on and so forth. So it's been a big learning curve."
The cherry on top, though, is that the architects Pitt brought in to execute the housing project — Shigeru Ban, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry, all legends in their field — have turned one of the city's most devastated communities into a top tourist attraction and, as Pitt put it, a "little oasis of color and the solar panels."