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Facebook drops $20M to create affordable housing in Palo Alto

Across the Bay Area, affordable housing remains hard to come by. In a climate where many displaced residents point their blame at the techies, Facebook has decided to invest $20 million in what it calls “A partnership to strengthen our local community.”

Specifically, Facebook has said it is committing $20 million to help create badly needed affordable housing in East Palo Alto.

The announcement comes at a time when many lower-income residents in East Palo Alto are leaving their city, no longer able to afford the rising rents, the Wall Street Journal reported. The crisis escalated recently as the city cracked down on substandard and illegal housing.

The initial contribution will establish a Catalyst Housing Fund, with $18.5 million for innovative and “scalable” ways to increase development and protect affordable housing. An additional $250,000 will go to Rebuilding Together Peninsula to support the construction and upkeep of homes for low-income residents. The contribution will also provide $625,000 for local job training in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Facebook will hire a community liaison who will help connect community members with open positions at Facebook, the company said.

"At Facebook, we are proud to call Silicon Valley our home. We are committed to being active and responsible neighbors by supporting the communities near our Menlo Park HQ that have welcomed us since we arrived here in 2011," the company stated.

The company has formed a partnership with local groups who are dedicated to preserving East Palo Alto's diverse community, whose incomes range from very low income to middle income. The coalition includes Youth United for Community Action, Faith in Action Bay Area, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Comité de Vecinos del Lado Oeste -- East Palo Alto, the City of East Palo Alto, the City of Menlo Park, and other community groups.

Facebook said the partnership is focused on solving some of the region’s most difficult issues, starting with the creation of more affordable housing.

"This is what our neighbors have told us their community needs most urgently," the company stated.

Facebook hopes the initial $20 million will attract more contributions and partners -- including community groups, philanthropists and companies -- over the next years in order to make a regional impact, the company said.

“We recognize that the situation is a crisis for many of our neighbors and that investments from the Catalyst Fund will take time to result in new units. To provide immediate relief to those facing particularly difficult circumstances, we’re dedicating $500,000 to an assistance fund to provide legal support to tenants threatened with displacement from evictions, unsafe living conditions and other forms of landlord abuse," the company said.

"Since shortly after Facebook was created, we’ve been part of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The region -- this community -- is our home. We want the region to remain strong and vibrant and continue a long tradition of helping to build technologies that transform the future and improve the lives of people around the world, and also in our extended neighborhood. We all need to work together to create new opportunities for housing, transportation and employment across the region. We’re committed to join with the community to help."

Mike Wheatley

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at mike@realtybiznews.com.

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