The housing market is unsympathetic gashing across levels of society and it’s worse in states like California. Undoubtedly, the San Francisco Bay Area may be the engine of the country’s economy, but the skyrocketing housing prices and other consumer prices are leaving thousands of people homeless. The situation has attracted various concerned parties including the big tech companies who have injected $5 Billion to fuel the campaign for affordable housing in the state, but is it enough?
Apple becomes the latest company to inject $2.5 billion into affordable housing initiatives around the silicon valley. Other companies that have taken a pledge include Google and Facebook each pledging $1 billion each in June and October, respectively and Microsoft kicked in pledging a $500 million check in January last year. Nonetheless, Apple’s commitment and the putative good deed drove somewhat mixed reactions from the public, and weighing in from the campaign trail, Senator Bernie Sanders had this to say;
“Apple is the latest tech industry tax evader that has portrayed its entry into the housing business as an act of philanthropic altruism,” Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, said in a statement. “We cannot rely on corporate tax evaders to solve California’s housing crisis.”
Like it’s, Apple’s housing pledge comes from the sub-market rate loans and the land transfers it expects will turn in a modest profit for the company. But the question I think most people are willing to turn a blind eye on is the fact that the combined $5 billion in land and financing so far pledged by these tech companies will actually be enough to address the core issue of the housing crisis facing the people of California county, and in particular, people living in the West Coast cities.
Even though California boasts of its huge contribution to the country’s GDP, people in the various states are suffering, it gets even worse in Silicon Valley where housing costs are so high that most people end up paying almost half their incomes in rent. The average cost of a house in Silicon Valley is well over $1 million, and the average apartment rent is nearly $3,000 a month.
The move by Apple and other tech companies isn’t avant-garde. Should we applaud it, yes, but it’s not something to marvel upon? Even in a more contemporary period, some actions like providing down payments and assistance programs to low-to-moderate homebuyers have been pursued by universities and a host of health care institutions.
But the fact that these companies are stepping into combat housing crisis in Silicon Valley is so encouraging and I would hope that the government does something, to speed up processes that will bring ease to the already existing tension in the state. Apple’s plan is not solely focused only on its staff, the company is putting $1 billion into an affordable housing investment fund for California and the same amount into a mortgage assistance fund for the first time buyers, which the company is optimistic will help teachers, veterans and service workers.
“The giving back here should be seen as necessary and required,” said Sunia Zaterman of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, “because these corporations are benefiting from the workforce, from the transportation systems, health systems, that are already in their communities.”
The company is also dedicating $300 million worth of its land for affordable housing. In addition, the company will donate $150 million to an affordable housing fund with the local nonprofit Housing Trust Silicon Valley and give $50 million to address homelessness.
This announcement comes as Silicon Valley communities put pressure on the tech companies who have notoriously expanded in the Bay Area but doing nothing for the people they displace and who cannot afford the skyrocketing housing prices.
“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,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “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.”