Brad Pitt stopped by the construction site of his environmentally friendly housing project in New Orleans on Tuesday, calling the enterprise "a small little victory."
"It's hard to claim an overall victory when you see how slowly it's still moving," Pitt tells PEOPLE of the housing project, which is slated for completion next year, built in cooperation with Global Green and the Home Depot Foundation. "[Hurricane] Katrina was a man-made disaster. This house here is a man-made solution."
By this time next year, the five single-family homes and approximately 18 apartments should be able to house up to 23 families – all using green building materials and including energy-saving appliances, dual windows and high-efficiency light bulbs. The building project broke ground last May.
"My family and I are very happy to be back here in this great city. We love it here very much," said Pitt, who settled in New Orleans with Angelina Jolie and their children earlier this year while he was filming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
After the disaster, which displaced entire communities, Pitt says: "We knew we couldn't bring back the families and friends who were lost, bring back the heirlooms and pictures, but maybe, in the process of rebuilding, we could build something smarter to create a better way of life."
Of the housing project Pitt said, "There will be a family living in here a year from now, and this is a home that treats them with dignity, with respect, that is conscious of their quality of life."
For more from Brad Pitt, including photos from his personal tour of the new homes, pick up the latest PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Reporting by MARY GREEN