Problems of Brad Pitt: Pretty Lower Ninth Public Housing Pissing People Off?

Further proving the road to hell as indeed paved with good intentions—or in this case, "green" concrete—Brad Pitt's taking flack for building housing in New Orleans' Katrina-devastated Lower Ninth ward. The houses are dreamy. The reaction isn't.

Brad Pitt, who's presumably done more for the city of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina than any governmental effort has, proportionally speaking—and, come on: not hard—is getting some heat for one of his initiatives, which involved building green houses in New Orleans for Lower Ninth residents to come back and reoccupy. A New York Times travel writer—hopefully, not on a junket—went down there to check the houses out. He saw big, beautiful, boxy green houses that...look absolutely nothing like the ones that were there did before. Even though the houses are free somewhat subsidized, this could cause some problems. Among them: alienating cultures of people who just want to resume their lives as normal as possible, four years later, and not being able to provide housing for every resident in the Lower Ninth as good as the Brad Pitt-installed housing that's there. One such resident gets quoted on the disparity.

"It's like New York - you know, the skyscrapers," said Ms. LeBlanc, who lives in a single-story house next to one of the much larger Make It Right creations, like a Mini Cooper boxed in by SUVs. "And there are going to be more," she added.

And naturally, designers are there to jump all over Pitt's aesthetics. One New Orleans-born architect calls them "alien, sometimes even insulting" before applauding Pitt's efforts, and a broker notes that "had he come here with houses that looked like what had been here before, he probably could have had four times, five times as many houses up by now." Okay, fine. All fair. But of the three residents quoted, two weren't in Pitt's homes and one was. Only one of them had anything negative to say. A small, insubstantial sample, to be sure, but a sample nonetheless. The entire thing illuminates a larger issue, though: How're we supposed to feel when celebrities get involved in the public sector vis-a-vis domestic in-need issues?

Well, here, Pitt's promoting a two-fold agenda: the use of green building materials and the relocation back to New Orleans. Neither can be called ignoble endeavors. Should he have mixed them up, though?

Problems of Brad Pitt: Pretty Lower Ninth Public Housing Pissing People Off?

Brad Pitt's housing debacle in New Orleans illuminates the inherent problems of volunteerism and community service from those who have way more than the necessary means to execute it properly, especially with regards to celebrities. Is there a better long-term solution than to completely subvert an inefficient public sector? What's the right length and stay of commitment? What's the accessibility of public housing provided by movie star Brad Pitt? And is the influence he casts over the project beneficial to it? Was there a way for him to build green housing that didn't look ripped out of the pages of Dwell? And is reinforcing the memory of a pre-Katrina Lower Ninth the right thing to do? And who's to decide that? There're people out there who will inevitably ask if something really is, in this case, better than nothing.

We hit up a familiar voice, an esteemed all-things-Louisiana blogger up for quote. As a guy who can knowingly write at length about Louisiana and the nuances of Brad Pitt's reaction to Gwenny's head-in-a-box at the end of Seven, I figured The Cajun Boy might have some decent crossover insight on this. He didn't disappoint:

I will say this...I have absolutely nothing but respect and admiration for Pitt for all he's done back home. So often we as a culture fixate on the endlessly retarded ways celebrities spend their money and often overlook the instances where they use their money and influence to do genuine good. Contrast Pitt with Nic Cage, another celebrity who bought property in the area. Pitt's become a true part of the community while Cage's houses are now up for auction because he has a fetish for stupid shit: shrunken skulls, exotic cars, etc. Brad Pitt should be lauded for what he's done. I personally would run through a wall of fire for him. And then I'd cook him up a pot of crawfish etoufee, because that's just how we do where I come from.

So, one more Bayou-born voice to the fray. It's worth adding: At least he's not Nic Cage is a fairly acceptable reaction to any number of situations.

So, lesson! Volunteerism sucks sometimes. Even if you're Brad Pitt, to someone, somewhere, you still can't get do the right thing, no matter how hard you try. Depressing, right?