Hilbert Morales | EL OBSERVADOR
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Google just announced this week that $1 billion will be allocated to address the need for ‘20,000 affordable housing units’ in the ‘San Francisco Bay Area, which includes the Greater San José Metropolitan Area (Silicon Valley).

This announcement was made using a social media blog entitled, “Google Pledges $1 billion for 20,000 Affordable Homes” authored by Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, posted Jun 18, 2019. This item read as follows:

“As we work to build a more helpful Google, we know our responsibility to help starts at home. For us, that means being a good neighbor in the place where it all began over 20 years ago: the San Francisco Bay Area.”

“Today, Google is one of the Bay Area’s largest employers. Across the region, one issue stands out as particularly urgent and complex: housing. 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 hometown of Mountain View, in San Francisco, or in our future developments in San José and Sunnyvale—we’ve invested in developing housing that meets the needs of these communities. But there’s more to do.”

“Today we’re announcing an additional $1 billion investment in housing across the Bay Area.”

“First, over the next 10 years, we’ll repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing. This will enable us to support the development of at least 15,000 new homes at all income levels in the Bay Area, including housing options for middle and low-income families. (By way of comparison, 3,000 total homes were built in the South Bay in 2018). We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle- and low-income residents.”

“Second, we’ll establish a $250 million investment fund so that we can provide incentives to enable developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units across the market. In addition to the increased supply of affordable housing these investments will help create, we will give $50 million in grants through to nonprofits focused on the issues of homelessness and displacement.”

“This builds on the $18 million in grants we’ve given to help address homelessness over the last five years, including $3 million we gave to the newly opened SF Navigation Center and $1.5 million to affordable housing for low income veterans and households in Mountain View.”

“In the coming months, we’ll continue to work with local municipalities to support plans that allow residential developers to build quickly and economically. Our goal is to get housing construction started immediately, and for homes to be available in the next few years. In Mountain View, we’ve already worked with the city to change zoning in the North Bayshore area to free up land for housing, and we’re currently in productive conversations with Sunnyvale and San José.”

“Of course, affordable and quality housing is only one way we’re investing in Bay Area communities. We’re also funding community spaces that provide free access to co-working areas for nonprofits, improving transit options for the community and our employees (taking 9,000 cars off the road per day), and supporting programs for career development, education and local businesses.”

“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. Solving a big issue like the housing shortage will take collaboration across business, government and community organizations, and we look forward to working alongside others to make the Bay Area a place where everyone who lives here can thrive.” POSTED IN: COMPANY ANNOUNCEMENTS (GOOGLE.ORG, posted by Sundar Pichai, CEO, published June 18, 2019).

San José Mayor Sam Liccardo offered this statement: “For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge. We look forward to working with Google to ensure today’s announcement (of that $1 billion allocation) manifests into housing that will benefit thousands of San José residents struggling under the burden of high rents.”

While most media have focused on the critical shortage of housing units, Google’s CEO also includes their interest in the homeless and low-income long-term residents in addition to education and working with local non-profit organizations. I commend Google’s CEO for inclusion of “good Samaritan stewardship” efforts which go beyond the usual focus on profits. A corporate stewardship is also addressed which includes the homeless, low-income long-term residents, and issues usually grouped under the gentrification of a community.

In addition, several major firms located in Silicon Valley need to be challenged to join this effort by also making their contribution. The reality is that 20,000 housing units is just the beginning. I added up the influx of additional labor forces to total 12,000 for Apple and 15,000 for Amazon. Can these corporations follow this ‘good Samaritan stewardship’ example which provides the underwriting needed to create housing needed by their additional employees?

An additional concern is who, other than EO, will help champion the representation of the local Latino community? The fact of the matter is that EO could be the official communicator of the information to be made available to the community on a general basis in addition to the usual publication of information of interest.

As a local owned and operated publication, EO is in a unique position to publish and post online on its website the information which the community at large will need to know. This is essential to the collaboration and coordination of community organizational actions.

EO wants to point out that the local millennial youth will need role models, advisors, and counselors to help them define a path to becoming the ‘knowledge workers’ the local high-tech industry needs (in order to expand the skilled local workforce). As a local Latino owned and operated publication, EO is willing to be a partner in the dissemination of good, truthful, and factual information which will accelerate the transitions the Latino community needs to become a full partner in this community and its enterprises.

Once again, EO thanks Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai for his visionary and compassionate actions which include good Samaritan stewardship.