The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Ford Foundation, Genentech, San Francisco Foundation and Facebook recently announced a collaborative, private initiative to help solve the affordable housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area. This Partnership for the Bay’s Future is to focus on San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties.

At the end of 2018, Microsoft announced its $450M investment in Seattle to create middle-income housing and a $50M donation to address Seattle’s homelessness problems. Microsoft made this announcement simultaneous to its announcement of adding 8,000 additional employees to its Seattle headquarters.

All of this corporate generosity is coming at a time when tech companies and their highly paid workers are exacerbating the affordability crisis so central to the housing industry. This new corporate funding highlights critical housing issues such as..

  • For every 100 lower-income renters, only 35 units are affordable and available, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
  • Are these corporate dollars and efforts purely charitable or are they fueled by self-interest to provide homes for their respective workforces?
  • Should the private sector have so much power over housing policy?
  • Does this corporate generosity help “do-good” businesses with their respective recruitment efforts?
  • Will it be more difficult for other corporations to not make these kinds of investments?
  • Will Apple make similar investments in Austin where it recently announced 10,000 new tech jobs and where it is likely Apple tech workers will displace low-income families?

Currently, support from the federal government for housing assistance is now one third of what it was during the 1970’s, according to the New York Times. Additionally, the 2017 tax bill diminished the value of the Low-Income Tax Credit, a key funding source for the construction of new, affordable housing.

Combine these realities and cuts with rising land and construction costs and it becomes more and more difficult to build affordable housing units.

Can collaborating corporations and foundations plus voter approved state initiatives to tax corporations to help pay for homeless services plug the dike of homelessness in this country? At least some people and some corporations are trying…any efforts to curb homelessness are better than none.