Microsoft Gives $500M for Affordable Housing in Seattle

January 18, 2019

Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood

© Microsoft

Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood announce Microsoft’s commitment of $500M for affordable housing in the Puget Sound region in Bellevue, Wash.

Microsoft has announced it is committing $500 million to advance affordable housing solutions in the booming Seattle area, where its headquarters are located.

Microsoft first made the Seattle area’s Puget Sound region its home in 1979. Since then, as Microsoft became one of the world's leading software companies, the city has seen explosive growth. But the housing market has failed to keep up.

Since 2011, jobs in the region have increased 21 percent, while growth in housing construction has lagged at 13 percent, officials say.

“This gap in available housing has caused housing prices to surge 96 percent in the past eight years, making the Greater Seattle area the sixth most expensive region in the United States,” Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood note in a blog post.

Also, median incomes in the area have failed to keep pace with rising housing costs, officials say.

Microsoft officials say the company will direct most of the funds toward subsidizing the preservation and construction of middle-income housing and supporting low-income housing across the Seattle area. About $25 million will go to grants to address homelessness in the region.

“Our goal is to move as quickly as possible with targeted investments that will have an outsized impact,” Smith and Hood note. They also plan to use the funds to provide short-term loans to help those who want to build affordable housing. “With these and similar investments, it’s possible to lend money, accelerate progress, be repaid, and then lend this money again,” they say, noting that they hope Microsoft's commitment will have a multiplier effect.

Microsoft officials have also teamed with the mayors of nine of the largest suburban cities outside of Seattle to address changes to the zoning to increase affordable housing and create new tax incentives to spur greater construction.

Microsoft says this is just the beginning of trying to fix a long-term challenge. “We’ll all need to learn and work together to ensure that everyone in our community has not just a roof over their head, but a place they can call their home,” the Microsoft officials say about the company's pledge.