Google invests $1 billion to ease housing shortage near California headquarters

Ruben Fields
June 20, 2019

Google's investment is a "needle-mover", said Matt Regan, senior vice-president of housing policy for the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced Tuesday that the company would be investing $1 billion to help boost housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Google's next big project will be in the Bay Area's most populous city, San Jose, where it plans to build a corporate campus consisting of offices and housing where 15,000 to 20,000 of its employees will work and live.

Pichai said the homes will be affordable for "all income levels" including middle- and low-income families. It also pledged $50 million in Google.org grants to nonprofits focused on homelessness and displacement. 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. Microsoft Corp. said in January it would spend $500 million to develop affordable housing and alleviate homelessness in the Seattle area, near its headquarters.

Google, which is one of the largest employers in the Bay Area, also said it hopes to get housing construction started immediately, and make the homes available in the next few years.

It remains to be seen whether or not Google can pull off this ambitious plan, but for now, Pichai seems confident his company can keep their word.

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One challenge for Google will be persuading local towns to support rezoning land for housing. Pichai notes that past year, developers built only 3,000 new homes in the South Bay.

Google joins other technology companies that have pledged to help create more affordable housing around Silicon Valley, where home prices have skyrocketed as the tech sector has grown.

In the coming months, Google said it will continue to work with local municipalities to support plans that allow residential developers to build quickly and economically.

Liccardo said the government is looking forward to cooperating with Google in terms of ensuring that residents of San Jose residents who have a hard time keeping up with housing expenses will benefit from the billion-dollar scheme. "In Mountain View, we've already worked with the city to change zoning in the North Bayshore area to free up land for housing, and we're now in productive conversations with Sunnyvale and San Jose". From 2007 to 2014, the nine counties of the Bay Area permitted just 57% of the number of units needed to meet population growth, Regan explained. The investment comes as more private tech companies are getting involved in regional housing issues.

"There's an enormous need for funding for subsidized housing, especially for people who are being displaced in the vicinity of Google and Facebook and all these companies", Singh said.

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