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Were Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Homes the Right Answer for the Rebuilding of the Lower 9th Ward?

March 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Throughout several of our class readings and documentaries, we have become aware of the various perspectives involving the devastations people of NOLA were faced with in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As the media covered the destruction, they depicted the Lower 9th Ward as an area with the greatest amount of destruction. What was next for the residents in that community when the national and state governments were not willing to help? Is any help better than no help at all?

It was August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 4,000 homes in the Lower 9th Ward, leaving the city paralyzed. Due to the fact that this neighborhood is a low-lying area, the high waters from the levee breaches did not only rush in but also stayed for months – acting almost like a bathtub. After the water eventually receded, the entire area’s landscape was coated in a gray mud. Brad Pitt established the Make it Right Foundation that committed itself to building 150 affordable “green” homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward. The Foundation collaborates with Global Green USA for other projects such as the Holy Cross Project with the same itinerary of building sustainable homes in the rebuilding process of this community.

The Make it Right Foundation gave residents a sense of hope for a better future with a chance to rebuild a home that has a stronger resilience to this type of disaster. The new subsidized homes are designed to be storm resistant, equipped with their own water management systems, some even had solar panels to generate their own electricity, and were LEED certified. Some devastated families of this neighborhood were able to reestablish their lives through the ownership of their very own home and had the chance to rebuild a sense of community that was once there before the hurricane. Brad Pitt homeowners receive many benefits that they may have not have had the chance to do so before, for instance the solar power panels on their roofs, that were once predominantly thought to be for higher class populations, generate electricity for the home and cut their electric bills in half. This brings me to my next question of the environmental injustices – are these fantastic benefits equally dispersed throughout the Lower 9th Ward community?

Current residents of these beautiful homes were able to purchase the house for about $150,000, but unlike many other people who lived in this neighborhood before the hurricane, they had something to start with – money. Even if someone received money for the destroyed home (insurance money), they would still have to borrow money to make a down payment for a “Brad Pitt Home”. The lack of jobs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina available for the returnees, makes it almost impossible for most folks to even make monthly payments on new homes. I respect every single volunteer or donation to help rebuild the Lower 9th Ward, but some of the help was not exactly what was needed. Volunteers helped build the Brad Pitt homes when the area was in desperate need for good paying jobs; the builders of these new green homes could have been the local workers who needed that help the most. Rebuilding the area does not always mean build materialistic things like a nice, colorful, energy efficient home – you have to start by rebuilding the people, giving them a chance to make money, because without money how are they to buy these homes?

I applaud Brad Pitt’s efforts along with many other organizations that are truly helping to rebuild New Orleans in the best way possible, because at the end of the day some help is better than no help. Although The Make It Right housing developments contain many flaws and pose other injustice issues previously discussed, it should be used as a model for further rebuilding the community by continuing the green building efforts already established. The model may serve as a foundation for ways to better serve the community. For instance implementing a project standard for the use of solar power would empower city residents to learn about what green building actually is and in the end save them money. It has been eight years since Katrina and the devastation is still noticeable throughout NOLA. Why is this community still suffering?How much longer will it take until the rebuilding process is complete? What will it take to get there?

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Katrina Red Tape..Saga Continues

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Check out this article in the The New York Times article (Katrina Red Tape) on the continued struggle of African-American homeowners in New Orleans, now eight years after Katrina. Geog 430 Students: Comments?  Observations?

A Village Called Versailles (Discussion Guide)

February 20, 2013 2 comments

The discussion guide provides important background for the screening of A Village Called Versailles.

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