Google announces $1B commitment for Bay Area housing

Source: San Jose Spotlight |By Janice Bitters | June 18, 2019

Google has just committed $1 billion to address the Bay Area’s crippling housing affordability crisis, an initiative that CEO Sundar Pichai says will help create at least 20,000 new homes in the region over the next decade.

The stunning announcement on Tuesday marks the largest promise to date by a Silicon Valley company to invest in homes as a growing number of tech companies begin to seek out ways to ease the area’s housing shortage, which has been exacerbated in recent years by the tech industry’s breakneck growth.

Pichai released a blog post Tuesday morning outlining a three-pronged approach to provide a little more than $1 billion in value to create and maintain housing in the Bay Area over the next decade. The initiative will focus on cities where the company currently has major office outposts: San Francisco, Sunnyvale, San Jose and its hometown of Mountain View.

“Solving a big issue like the housing shortage will take collaboration across business, government and community organizations,” Pichai said in a statement. “We look forward to working alongside others to make the Bay Area a place where everyone who lives here can thrive.”

Alphabet Inc.-owned Google intends to divvy out its investment three ways: setting aside company-owned land for housing development, creating a new investment fund to maintain and create affordable homes and awarding grants to organizations focused on homelessness and displacement in the region.

“This is a really big day,” said Jim Wunderman, president & CEO of the Bay Area Council. “It signals that there’s a new day where private companies are stepping up and recognizing that they’re part of the fabric of our communities and they need to be part of the solution to the region’s most pressing problem: housing affordability.”

Landing housing near Google

Its largest planned contribution, valued at $750 million, will be through developable land, an increasingly scarce and expensive resource in the Bay Area.

The company intends to work with city officials to rezone swaths of Google-owned property, changing it from land where office or commercial space are currently the only types of buildings allowed to rise, into places where new residential units can sprout up instead. Pichai estimates 15,000 new units or more could rise on the land.

And that’s a key part of the plan because Google’s owned land today sits primarily around its office campuses, said Alicia John-Baptiste, president and CEO of planning think-tank SPUR, short for San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association.

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