Facebook today announced a pledge of $1 billion and a partnership with the state of California to help build more affordable housing, after the company contributed for over a decade to an influx of tens of thousands of highly paid technology workers that exacerbated the problem in the Bay Area. Facebook says the money will go toward building 20,000 new housing units “to help essential workers such as teachers, nurses and first responders live closer to the communities that rely on them,” writes chief financial officer David Wehner in a blog post announcing the pledge.
Facebook’s pledge mirrors that of one Google made back in June, in which the fellow tech giant also pledged $1 billion to help fix the California housing crisis it helped create. Both companies employ tens of thousands of employees, many of which are contract workers that increasingly can no longer afford to live in or sometimes even remotely nearby the cities where the large tech campuses are located.
Facebook didn’t create the problem, but it did make it worse
Those workers include the security guards, kitchen and cleaning staff, and other part-time and contract workers that are not granted the high salary of a standard tech gig that would allow them to live in Silicon Valley or in San Francisco, where rent has skyrocketed and purchasing a home is effectively impossible for anyone but the ultra-wealthy.
Over the summer, San Francisco median rent prices hit an all-time high, Curbed reported, with the price of a one-bedroom apartment hitting $3,720. The same month, the median price for a single-family home hit $1.7 million. The housing crisis in San Francisco proper and in places like Palo Alto and Mountain View has, over the years, bled into neighboring areas. That has made it increasingly cost-prohibitive to live in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay, where workers have traditionally relocated to continue commuting into the city and the valley.
Facebook hopes it can spend enough money to help alleviate the issue. Wehner offered a breakdown of how the $1 billion will be spent:
- $250 million to a partnership with the state of California for mixed-income housing on excess state-owned land in communities where housing is scarce.
- $150 million for production of affordable housing, including housing for the homeless, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- $225 million in land in Menlo Park.
- $25 million to build teacher and essential worker housing on public land for school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
- $350 million in funds for additional commitments based on the rollout and effectiveness of the initiatives described above.
There are some caveats worth mentioning. The $225 million for land in Menlo Park is not for purchasing the land; Facebook already owns it, as the city is the home of Facebook’s headquarters. However, it is now zoned for housing, and the company plans to build 1,500 mixed-income housing units on it. The $25 million teacher fund was actually first announced last week, and it will help fund housing on Santa Clara County-owned land.