This week, Google announced a $1 billion investment in housing across the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is the blog post announcement by CEO, Sundar Pichai. And here are a couple of paragraphs from the post explaining how this is expected to work:
First, over the next 10 years, we’ll repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing. This will enable us to support the development of at least 15,000 new homes at all income levels in the Bay Area, including housing options for middle and low-income families. (By way of comparison, 3,000 total homes were built in the South Bay in 2018). We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents.
Second, we’ll establish a $250 million investment fund so that we can provide incentives to enable developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units across the market.
In addition to the increased supply of affordable housing these investments will help create, we will give $50 million in grants through Google.org to nonprofits focused on the issues of homelessness and displacement. This builds on the $18 million in grants we’ve given to help address homelessness over the last five years, including $3 million we gave to the newly opened SF Navigation Center and $1.5 million to affordable housing for low income veterans and households in Mountain View.
Google is not alone in its efforts to improve housing supply in the Bay Area but, according to CityLab, this is “the single largest commitment by a private employer.”
There’s a lot of debate about the value of housing supply, alone. But in 2017, the Bay Area added 3.5x as many jobs as it did housing. I think most people would agree that’s a suboptimal, and potentially unsustainable, mismatch.
Also, if large companies such as Google and Microsoft are making these sorts of investments, it is likely that they’re worried about housing unaffordability impacting their ability to attract and retain top talent going forward.
Perhaps this is a signal for just how unsustainable this mismatch has gotten.