The Real Deal New York

Tech brought prosperity and a housing crisis to Seattle. Microsoft just stepped forward with $500M and a plan

The tech giant will fund construction for lower-priced homes
January 17, 2019 09:30AM

Clippy holding a bunch of money in Seattle (Credit: Unsplash and Pixabay)

Maybe you’ve heard that the tech industry has helped exacerbate a housing affordability crisis across many of the U.S. hottest housing markets. In its own back yard, Microsoft is ready to spend $500 million to fix a growing problem it had a hand in creating.

The move is the largest effort by a tech company to directly address affordable housing and inequality in the areas where the industry is concentrated, the New York Times reported. Microsoft will fund construction for homes that will be attainable for middle- and low-income residents.

The tech giant’s plan comes after Amazon pushed to block a new tax in Seattle that would have forced large businesses to pay a per-employee tax to fund affordable housing and homeless services, the report said. Microsoft, which is based in nearby Redmond, Washington, didn’t take a position on it.

Microsoft began researching the area’s housing after the tax fight last summer — and hired a consultant to determine how to focus its effort. Home prices in the region have nearly doubled in the past eight years while less has been done to address middle-income and low-income housing.

Amazon head Jeff Bezos has has supported homeless service providers through his personal foundation, the report said. And Salesforce chief executive, Marc Benioff, helped fund a proposition in San Francisco to tax businesses to pay for homeless services — which voters approved but Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey opposed.

The debate about the tech industry’s growth exacerbating inequality also cropped up in New York City, after Amazon announced plans for a new campus in Long Island City, but made no pledge to support affordable housing. The company’s move to Queens immediately created increased interest in the area’s condo market — but sparked concerns about the city’s ability to create or preserve affordable housing. [NYT] — Meenal Vamburkar