Tech Giants Step in to Address Housing Shortages

July 28, 2020

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc., and other major tech companies pledged over the past year to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to increase the supply of affordable housing in their communities. The tech industry has been blamed as a major culprit for housing shortages in Silicon Valley and Seattle. Tech companies are renewing their vow to fix it, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google announced last week that its first round of $115 million has been deployed of its total $1 billion commitment. About $100 million has gone to housing developers and an investment in a modular-housing company, Factory_OS, to help build a second housing factory. Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., says it expects its investments to generate about 24,000 new units of affordable housing by 2029.

Apple announced last week that it has allocated the first $400 million of the $2.5 billion pledge it announced in 2019 to go toward affordable housing. It will create loans for affordable housing developments and is also working with the California Housing Finance Agency to provide down payment and mortgage assistance to hundreds of first-time buyers.

Microsoft Corp., based in Seattle, pledged $750 million to affordable housing, and Facebook Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., has said it’ll devote $1 billion.

Companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook are also donating their own land to build developments to include more housing.

After years of rising housing costs in the tech homes, home buyers have been priced out. For example, new jobs were outpacing housing supply in all of the Bay Area’s nine counties between 2011 and 2017.

“We’re not going to solve the entire housing affordability problem through philanthropic dollars from large tech companies,” Sarah Karlinsky, senior adviser at SPUR, a public policy think tank, told The Wall Street Journal. She says state and local policies will also be an important piece. “It’s certainly great that they’re taking it seriously, but the amount of money that’s needed is going to be significant.”

Source: 
Tech Giants Aim to Solve West Coast Housing Shortage,” The Wall Street Journal (July 23, 2020) [Log-in required.]