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Apple’s $2.5 billion pledge makes it the latest tech giant to tackle California’s housing crisis

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Apple’s pledge is the most significant of the Big Five

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Apple today announced a pledge of $2.5 billion to combat the housing crisis in its home state of California. It’s the largest commitment of any of the Big Five in the tech industry, all of which have pledged various amounts of money toward helping build more affordable housing in and around the cities they operate near.

The only major US tech company who has yet to pledge a significant amount of money toward the issue is Amazon, although Amazon did donate $8 million over the summer to nonprofits that provide housing for the homeless. The company has also donated more than $130 million to a pair of nonprofits, Mary’s Place and FareStart, that provide shelter and job assistance to the homeless.

Apple, which is based in Cupertino outside of San Jose and is less than an hour’s drive from San Francisco, has more than 130,000 employees, many of which command high salaries and have, both directly and indirectly, contributed to the lack of affordable housing in Northern California. Last month, Facebook pledged $1 billion toward the issue, while Google pledged the same amount back in June.

Microsoft, which is based just outside Seattle, said in January it would spend $500 million to help ease similar housing issues in the city’s greater metropolitan area. Seattle has suffered from similar overcrowding and gentrification, as well as a lack of affordable housing, that comes with years upon years of high-paid labor increases and a lack of equally distributed housing options to help people of all incomes live in or near the city.

Yet regardless of location, the issues around the country — and especially in areas with high concentrations of tech workers — take the same shape. It is often much harder to build housing in cities faster than people move there, and the housing that is available tends to increase in price, where only higher-paid workers (like tech employees) can afford to move in. That results in less people working service and municipal jobs that keep a city running, or having to live farther away to perform those jobs, while homelessness rises and long-time residents get forced out of neighborhoods their families have lived in for generations.

“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Apple breaks down its commitment into two large $1 billion funds, as well as a series of smaller donations and pledges to various other housing issues:

  • $1 billion affordable housing investment fund: “The $1 billion commitment to the state of California is a first-of-its-kind affordable housing fund that will provide the state and others with an open line of credit to develop and build additional new, very low- to moderate-income housing faster and at a lower cost.”
  • $1 billion first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund: “Working with the state, this first-time homebuyer fund will provide aspiring homebuyers with financing and down payment assistance. Apple and the state will explore strategies to increase access to first-time homeownership opportunities for essential service personnel, school employees and veterans.”
  • $300 million Apple-owned land will be available for affordable housing: “Apple intends to make available land it owns in San Jose worth approximately $300 million for the development of new affordable housing.”
  • $150 million Bay Area housing fund: “In a public-private partnership, Apple is launching a new $150 million affordable housing fund with partners including Housing Trust Silicon Valley to support new affordable housing projects. The fund will consist of long-term forgivable loans and grants.”
  • $50 million to support vulnerable populations: “Apple will donate $50 million to support Destination: Home’s efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley. Apple will focus its contribution on driving systemic change across the many factors affecting homelessness. Apple will also be identifying similar efforts in Northern and Southern California, focusing on strategies that both end and prevent homelessness.”