Google created a window of opportunity to address the San Francisco Bay Area housing crisis with plans to invest $1 billion across the region in the coming years, a company spokesman told Patch Tuesday morning.
Three quarters of the investment consists of property Google owns and needs to repurpose to construct more than 15,000 new homes intended for a variety of income levels. A quarter of the billion will be earmarked to build 5,000-plus affordable housing units.
The efforts will require public-private partnerships with various local governments. For starters, the land will need to be rezoned from commercial to residential. Google plans to lease the property to local developers to build instead of the search engine giant that owns property spanning across the United States to New York going into the housing business. The company has called the Bay Area home for two decades.
At this point, Google has no designated list of cities where it proposes to build nor any specific plans for most of the land of what types of housing will go there — whether they’re condominiums, stick-built homes or something less conventional.
The company already has a major project in the works at North Bayshore and East Whisman in Mountain View as well as Moffett Park in Sunnyvale and the Diridon Station Area in San Jose. Twenty percent of the North Bayshore’s 9,850 homes in Mountain View will be comprised as affordable.
“The lack of new supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents. As Google grows throughout the Bay Area—whether it’s in our home town of Mountain View, in San Francisco or in our future developments in San Jose and Sunnyvale—we’ve invested in developing housing that meets the needs of these communities. But there’s more to do,” Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai announced in his blog post on Tuesday.
Google recognizes the most pressing issue the Silicon Valley and other Bay Area communities face day after day — housing. For example, the median price of a single family home in Santa Clara County where its Mountain View headquarters is based is $1.2 million. Even with a dip in sales in April, the inventory remaining is still out of reach to many. Those who are priced out are living in recreational vehicles that clog city streets, thus commanding local jurisdictions to step in and either create ordinances or enforce parking rules. Other residents are fleeing the state in a mass exodus.
It’s a problem that won’t go away. It’s one that takes a village of public policy advocates, businesses and local governments to solve.
“This announcement (Tuesday) is pretty incredible,” Silicon Valley @ Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia told Patch. The San Jose-based advocacy agency works to support housing initiatives and change public policy that hinders those efforts. Corsiglia’s group writes letters, shows up at meetings and serves as a think tank to get people housed in an area where the job growth is thriving at an unprecedented rate. Frankly, the housing has been unable to meet the workforce demand.
“Clearly, corporate engagement in housing definitely is required when you look at it from a business perspective. They need to be part of the solution,” she said.
Corsiglia agreed with the company’s logic in working to solve the housing crisis, because if anything, a company of its size with monumental missions will not complete its accomplishments without giving its workforce a place to live.
The intervention, however self-serving as it may appear, falls in line with Google’s preferences to build out mixed-use plans surrounding its campuses.
Silicon Valley @ Home also applauded Google’s lesser known plan to include $50 million in grants to nonprofits who are working to respond to displacement concerns and homelessness blanketing city streets.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has long hammered home the mission to build more housing in his sprawling metropolis.
Among other mayors in cities across the state, Liccardo has met recently with California Gov. Gavin Newsom to drive home the urgent need — one the governor concurs requires all hands on deck to fulfill.