Google pledges $1 billion for affordable housing - Activate World

Google pledges $1 billion for affordable housing

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a $1 billion investment over the next ten years to build some 20,000 units of housing in Silicon Valley. The tech explosion in the Bay Area has made housing unaffordable for large segments of the population as it has in other tech centers across the country.

Lunchtime Conversations:

  • Should more tech companies follow Google and Microsoft and provide funding to build affordable homes so working families have the freedom to stay and thrive in communities?
  • How would you support, incent, or solve the affordable housing challenge in various communities?
  • Advocacy groups Tech 4 Housing and Bellwether Housing announced the Building Opportunity Fund allowing anyone to invest in affordable housing solutions, not just accredited investors. How can innovative funding initiatives help, and how can we get more involved in initiatives like this?

Noteworthy:

  • “As corporations in the Bay Area rode a wave of unprecedented job growth, the public sector let housing problems fester,” said Nathan Ho, who leads housing policy at Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
  • In addition to its holdings in Mountain View, San Francisco, and across 24 of the 50 US states, the company’s planning a whole new giant campus in San Jose.
  • Google has plans to transform North Bayshore, its primary location in Mountain View, by adding 5,700 new homes, 7.5 miles of hike and bike trails, 34 acres of public open space, and 300K sq. ft. of retail and community space, all with a focus on sustainability. 

Storyline:

Over the last 20 years, tech industry giants like Facebook, Genentech, Cisco, and Google, have helped fund efforts to build housing and tackle homelessness. In January of this year, Microsoft pledged $500 million for affordable housing in the Seattle area, saying the industry has an interest and responsibility to help people left behind in communities transformed by the tech boom. That same month, a group of Bay Area philanthropists, including Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, also committed $500 million to protect and expand affordable housing in the Silicon Valley area.

The debate about the rapid growth of the tech industry and the inequality that often follows has spread across the country. This was true when Amazon, with billions of taxpayer subsidies, announced plans to build major campuses in Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Va but made no commitments to support affordable housing. 

Google says it wants to be a “good neighbor” and plans to repurpose at least $750 million worth of commercially zoned land it owns over the next ten years. Sundar Pichai says the company will work with local governments to allow developers to lease the land to build homes.

Also, Google plans to create a $250 million investment fund to provide incentives for developers to create more affordable homes in the area. Although the details are not final, Google said the fund might provide loans or make investments in projects that were geared toward building affordable housing.

In the official Google blog post, the company says that in addition to the investments in affordable and quality housing it will also “give $50 million in grants through Google.org to nonprofits focused on the issues of homelessness and displacement.” 

Sources: GeekWireSan Francisco ChronicleThe Mercury NewsThe New York Times

Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash