Last year, Google committed $1 billion towards addressing the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, acknowledging that as one of the largest employers in the region it has a responsibility to help. Today, the company shared updates on its progress, and announced it is giving $4 million in new grants to organizations that are working to help solve homelessness in the area. These include Sunnyvale Community Services, Larkin Street Youth Services and Abode Services.
In its announcement today, Google also shared more on what it calls its “housing first” approach to the homelessness crisis. It pointed to a number of obstacles that can keep people from qualifying for housing, like participating in job training or drug rehab programs that not everyone living on the street might find easy to do. Google said its housing first approach prioritizes giving people safe and stable shelter before they can get other support like “mental health care, drug rehab, food assistance, or job training programs.”
According to Google, Larkin Street Youth Services has been able to secure a hotel in San Francisco to “house homeless youth who have been deprioritized from housing waitlists.” During the pandemic, giving people a safe place to live has been even more important, “given the added risk of contracting the virus among people who are on the streets or in homelessness encampments.”
Part of the billion-dollar investment announced last year was a $250 million fund meant to “provide incentives to enable developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units across the market.” Today, Google said it’s used that to support affordable housing projects like The Kelsey Ayer Station in San Jose, which offers 115 homes for “people with a range of incomes.” Some $50 million went to Housing Trust Silicon Valley’s TECH Fund towards building more affordable units quickly, and that money has gone towards six projects in the Bay Area “with more to come.” Some of the housing developments Google has invested in are expected to break ground next year.
Today, Google announced it’s giving another $50 million from the $250 million fund to the Housing Trust’s Launch Initiative, which will invest in a broader range of housing projects. Google estimates this initiative will create 4,000 affordable units. The tech giant is also looking into modular housing by working with modular home maker Factory_OS and helping them double their production capacity. The goal with this investment is to create “tens of thousands affordable housing units over the next decade, including around 700 multi-family modular homes in Oakland and San Francisco by early 2021.”
Google isn’t the only major tech employer in the Bay Area. Apple also said earlier this month that it will spend $400 million on affordable housing this year, as part of its $2.5 billion pledge from last year to combat the California housing crisis. There are an estimated 35,000 people who are homeless in California’s Bay Area, which makes it the third largest region for homelessness in America. Companies have also pushed for state policy changes to help improve the situation, which has only been exacerbated during the pandemic. With increased attention to the issues and more investment from Big Tech, perhaps we will see some progress in the coming years.