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Google Pledges $1 Billion to Develop 20,000 New S.F. Bay Area Homes Over the Next Decade

Kevin Kelleher

In an effort to “build a more helpful Google,” company CEO Sundar Pichai said Tuesday that the Silicon Valley giant would devote $1 billion toward building 20,000 new homes in the Bay Area, mostly in the southern part of the region near Google headquarters.

“We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents,” Pichai said in a blog post announcing the move. “The lack of new supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents.”

Three quarters of the $1 billion commitment will come by repurposing Google-owned land zoned for office space into residential housing areas, which could support the development of 15,000 homes “at all income levels” over the next decade. The remaining $250 million will create an investment fund to offer developers incentives to build 5,000 affordable homes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Google’s pledge follows a move in January by Facebook, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and others to raise $280 million in funds to help preserve or develop 8,000 units of affordable housing within 10 years. As tech giants have hired more highly paid employees, they’ve drawn criticism from Bay Area activists, residents, and others for fueling a housing crisis in the region that has priced many workers out of the market.

Although Google’s announcement was, according to one executive on Twitter, in the works for “a very long time,” Pichai’s announcement comes a week after a report from Working Partnerships USA that said Google’s expansion in downtown San Jose “could cost renters $235 million in higher rents each year” unless the company helped to add more than 17,000 affordable and market-rate housing units in the city.

A recent analysis of Census Bureau data showed that the population of the San Francisco Bay Area had risen more than 8%, or 600,000 people, since 2010. That growth has slowed in recent years, to 38,000 in 2018 from more than 100,000 in 2013, according to California’s Department of Finance. The growth, coupled with housing laws that have limited new developments, have caused housing prices to soar. The Bay Area also had the third-highest population of people experiencing homelessness, behind New York and Los Angeles.

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