Make It Right, Brad Pitt's recovery neighborhood in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 flood with the unveiling of a high-tech mini house meant to sell for less than $100,000.
Conceived by the Make It Right research, design and development manager Jordan Pollard, the two-story home taking shape at 1732 Forstall St. has a 28-by-12.5-foot footprint, with 430 square feet of interior space.
The loft bedroom, laundry room tucked under the stairs, built-in overhead shelves and 6-foot outdoor porch overhang are meant to maximize the living area as much as possible, Pollard said.
Tiny houses, tailor-made for small lots, tight budgets and lean lifestyles are a trend in contemporary architecture. Pollard traces the public's interest in mini-dwellings to the mortgage crisis that took place in 2007, causing some homeowners to default.
"Ever since the housing crisis," Pollard said, "there's been a growth in people looking to downsize, to take on less. It's the less is more concept."
Small houses can be more economical to purchase and maintain, Pollard pointed out.
"To be able to own a brand new home for under $100,000 is pretty rare. That's a pretty attractive monthly mortgage note. It's in conflict with the McMansion mentality, but it makes sense," he said, referring to high-cost, oversized homes.
Plus, small houses with limited storage capacity make it impossible to over-buy consumer goods.
"People are tired of taking care of a lot of stuff," Pollard said.
Philosophically, some small house owners deliberately sacrifice spaciousness for ecological responsibility. By their nature, tiny houses use fewer resources, Pollard said, especially if they are designed for efficiency.
The new Make It Right house might be small, but, Pollard said, it incorporates the solar panels, energy conserving appliances and other earth-friendly features of the larger MIR dwellings in the neighborhood. He can't be sure what the energy bill will be, but he predicts it will be "next to nothing."
The raised mini home will also incorporate the same high degree of hurricane resistance as the larger Make It Right houses, Pollard said.
If finished by Aug. 29 as expected, the new tiny house will have been designed and built in record time. Pollard said he began the plans on July 30. The reason for the rush was the opportunity for the tiny house to be featured on an upcoming episode of the television series, "Tiny House Nation," on the FYI network. FYI is sharing the expenses to build the new home with Make It Right.
Make It Right will incorporate the small, inexpensive house design into the future growth of the development, Pollard said.
"We're definitely interested in the possibility of building more of these little houses," he said.
In 2005, the neighborhood at the foot of the Claiborne Avenue bridge was destroyed by floodwater escaping the Industrial Canal. Two years later, Pitt formed Make It Right, a nonprofit agency that used donations and grants to build futuristic, high-design homes for returning residents. Make It Right supplements the sale of the homes with low-cost mortgages to insure affordability.
(Read the Aug. 15 stories: "Brad Pitt: 'I feel fantastic' about Make It Right" and "Make It Right, a neighborhood born of Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 flood.")
Pollard's tiny house will be the 109th Make It Right home completed. It will be occupied by a New Orleans teacher.
Pollard said that though many prototype Make It Right homes — designed by some of the world's most respected architects — cost more to build than the average $150,000 sale price, the new mini home could be sold for more-or-less the construction cost.
The mini house will be the centerpiece of Make It Right's "Call For Volunteers" day on Aug. 29 when anyone interested in the neighborhood redevelopment can help with landscaping projects and planting a community garden. For more information, visit the Make It Right website.