Brad Pitt got his hands wet in the building industry after Hurricane Katrina by setting out to help residents repopulate the most devastated areas of New Orleans. His foundation then took on the goal of building affordable and sustainable housing projects in New Jersey, Missouri, and even the Fort Peck Reservation. Now “Make It Right” sets its sight on six more designs for Kansas City, Missouri.
The Make It Right Foundation is reputed for its efforts to help communities in distress. But it is also noted for promoting sustainable building practices. To that end, all of the houses are built with the Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which is the highest category for sustainability offered by the industry formed “green” ratings group.
Despite a real estate market rife with vacant homes and mortgage interest rates hovering at an all-time low after the Great Recession, many prospective homeowners, even those still having jobs, found it hard to get loans. At a moment when availability to credit was needed more than ever for people to get back on their feet, qualifying for a mortgage loan got tougher and many lenders began to require 20% down payments. That meant those in need were left without options to purchase, so those who were still doing well after the recession were at an advantage to acquire foreclosed properties while the market values and interest rates were low. But many, whose credit was damaged by foreclosure, were unable to even rent in a market that now used credit ratings to determine everything from rental housing worthiness to auto insurance rates.
These six new homes to be built in Kansas City, Missouri follow a previous project there to refurbish the declining neighborhood of Manheim Park. They converted the dilapidated Bancroft Elementary School, built in 1904 and shuttered for thirteen years, into residential apartments, with affordable sections for young adults transitioning out of foster care, veterans, and low-income families.
The new Kansas City project will consist of single family homes located across from the Bancroft apartments. Local architects submitted plans for the six sustainable home designs, which vary from two story structures with slant roofs to single level “airplane bungalow” type houses, all with some form of porch overhang.
The initial project in Manheim Park was attentive to community re-development. It included a community center with facilities available to all neighborhood residents. The hope is that this level of commitment will encourage other investment in the community, both of residents’ human resources as well as outside retail capital.
All of the Make It Right homes are built with the concept of “cradle to cradle” principles, practices, and products. This philosophy encourages mindfulness in the built space: materials should come from renewable sources and be able to be reused or recycled; they should be sensitive to ecological factors; labor should be safe and use fair trade principles; and there should be “continuous and aspirational improvements.” The homes will feature solar panels, tankless water heating, pervious concrete and many other passive designs and landscaping.
The program acknowledges that some endeavors are experimental and they’ve learned better options along the way, but at least they demonstrate an ongoing intention and attempt to “Make It Right.”