Google this week announced a grand plan to try and help ease San Francisco’s housing problem, saying it’s setting aside $1 billion to build 20,000 homes in the region in the next ten years.
Google’s plans come as it and other technology firms face criticism for contributing to the soaring costs of housing in the Bay Area. Google, which is headquartered in Mountain View, California, has been expanding aggressively in recent years, with major real estate developments underway in San Francisco, San Jose and Sunnyvale.
"Across the region, one issue stands out as particularly urgent and complex: housing," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post. "The lack of new supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for longtime middle- and low-income residents."
To counter that shortage, Google said it will repurpose $750 million worth of the land it owns, which is currently zoned for commercial and office space, in order to build 15,000 homes. The homes will include properties for mid and lower-income residents, it said. In addition, Google will create a $250 million investment fund to serve as an incentive for developers to build another 5,000 affordable homes in the area. The company said it hopes that construction will begin “immediately”.
The pledge to help with San Francisco’s housing situation could help take the pressure off of Google, which is coming under increased scrutiny for other reasons. Among other things, it’s been accused of applying censorship, distributing disinformation on the web, and not taking a strong enough stance against workplace sexual harassment.
At least, California Governor Gavin Newsom welcomed today’s news that Google wants to help aid the housing situation:
"Google recognizes that it has an important role to play in addressing California's cost crisis," Newsom said in a statement. "I hope today's announcement inspires other companies -- big and small -- to make similar direct investments in housing affordability throughout our state."