Google will invest $ 1 billion in housing in the San Francisco Bay, a region plagued by a homeless and housing crisis that has been partly fueled by the technology industry.
The announcement comes as the technology giant prepares to expand beyond its headquarters in Mountain View and the offices in San Francisco to the new San Jose and Sunnyvale campuses. The billion dollars would support the development of 20,000 new homes over 10 years, equal to about 68% of the number of units that the Bay Area has to build each year in order to satisfy population growth.
"As we work to build a more useful Google, we know that our responsibility to help starts at home," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote Tuesday. blog ad. "For us, this means being a good neighbor in the place where it all began over 20 years ago: the San Francisco Bay Area."
The first step is to reuse at least $ 750m of Google's land currently divided into office or commercial space in residential homes over the course of 10 years, allowing the development of 15,000 homes "at all income levels," Pichai wrote. .
The remaining $ 250 million will go into an investment fund to "provide incentives to allow developers to build at least 5,000 housing units accessible on the market".
The company also promised an additional $ 50 million in grants through Google.org to non-profit groups focused on the homeless and displaced.
"For several months, we have encouraged Google to boldly address the challenge of our region's affordable home," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. "We are looking forward to working with Google to ensure that today's announcement manifests itself in homes that will benefit thousands of San Jose residents who struggle under the weight of high rents."
The Bay Area has suffered from a housing crisis in recent years, driven by the lack of affordable housing fueled in part by economic disparities created by the technological industry. While the industry continues to grow at exponential rates, the economic construction has not been built to meet needs: the Economic Institute of the Bay Area Council estimates that 200,000 people are forced to move every day in the Bay Area from the central valley because they cannot afford to live anywhere else.
The day before Google's announcement, Yolanda Chavez, a San Jose activist with Silicon Valley Rising, wrote an average post addressed to Pichai expressing his concerns that Google's new campus could increase rent and force her out of her home.
"I had to subcontract a bedroom and my living room to strangers," he wrote. "Many of my friends have already been listed, forced to move to Stockton or Modesto. One now lives in Los Baños and has to come back here every day to work. He leaves his home at 4 am, he doesn't come home until 11 and he barely sees his family. "
"I know that if Google comes to San Jose and doesn't act responsibly to avoid driving rents even higher, I won't even be able to stay here," Chavez wrote.
"Google's investment is a" needle-mover, "said Matt Regan, senior vice president of housing policy for the Economic Institute of the Bay Area Council.
"It will not solve the problems of economic accessibility of the region in and of itself. But it sets the standard for others to follow," he said. "What Google has done is go far beyond that, and I think it sets the standard for local governments and they need to go further and be part of the solution."
The bay area has long struggled to meet its housing needs. From 2007 to 2014, the nine counties of the Bay Area allowed only 57% of the number of units needed to meet population growth, explained Regan. By committing to supporting the development of 20,000 units, Google promises to take care of 68% of the 29,500 new homes that the surface is estimated to need each year.
Although Shanti Singh, communications coordinator with non-profit tenants together, applauded Google for his investment, he questioned why only a quarter of the company's overall commitment would be for housing. affordable prices.
"There is a huge need for subsidized housing subsidies, especially for people who are moved around Google and Facebook and all these companies," Singh said. "Everyone is struggling to find housing, but we must give priority to those who suffer the most".
Community activists have long asked technology companies to be involved in local social issues, especially those they helped create. Now that Google is entering the housing crisis, Singh hopes the company will look into other issues happening in the company's backyard, such as efforts to repeal a rent control decision passed in 2016 in Mountain View, where Google is based.
"If Google wants to be a neighbor and defend people who are disproportionately displaced, it also means being involved in keeping people in their homes," he said.
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