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Google investing $1 billion to fight Bay Area housing crisis

The company announced Tuesday it will repurpose at least $750 million of the land it already owns in the Bay Area for residential housing. In a blog post, Google (GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai said the land — most of which is currently zoned for commercial or industrial use — will be used to create at least 15,000 new homes at different income levels, including for middle and low-income residents.

Google will also create a $250 million investment fund to incentivize developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units in the area.

A shortage of affordable housing across the Bay Area is pushing out middle and low-income workers like teachers and restaurant employees. Critics say the influx of tech companies such as Google and Facebook, and their well-paid workers, have contributed to the ongoing housing crisis. In San Francisco alone, more 7,000 people are homeless, according the the city's most recent survey.

"We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents," said Pichai wrote in a blog post., the company's philanthropic division, will give an additional $50 million in grants to nonprofits focused on homelessness and displacement.

Pichai said the company's goal was to start construction immediately and make homes available within the next few years. Google is working with the city government in Mountain View and talking to Sunnyvale and San Jose's government about quickly rezoning the land — all cities within Silicon Valley.

"Across all of this, our goal is to help communities succeed over the long term, and make sure that everyone has access to opportunity, whether or not they work in tech," said Pichai.

The housing issue has received national attention and was a topic of major debate during the last California state election. In November, voters passed the largest corporate tax increase in San Francisco's history — an issue that pitted Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff against Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. Benioff accused Dorsey and other tech leaders who opposed the ballot measure of not giving enough back to the city where their companies are headquartered.

Google, one of the biggest employers in the Bay Area, has given $18 million in grants to address homelessness over the past five years, the company said. The investment comes as more private tech companies are getting involved in regional housing issues.


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