Microsoft Pledges $500 Million to Boost Affordable Housing

Half the money will be spent to support low-income housing across King County.

Microsoft Pledges $500 Million to Boost Affordable Housing
In this 3 July 2014 file photo, the Microsoft Corp. logo is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Centre in Redmond, Wash. ( Photo: AP)

(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. said it will spend $500 million to develop affordable housing and help alleviate homelessness in the Seattle area, responding to a growing regional housing crisis that has strained the finances of many lower- and middle-income residents.

Half the money will be spent to support low-income housing across King County with a further $225 million invested at lower than market rates to subsidize  the preservation and construction of middle-income homes, the Redmond, Washington-based company said in a blog post. The remaining $25 million will be used to address homelessness in the greater Seattle region.

Cities in Washington state’s Puget Sound region and the San Francisco Bay Area have seen steep rent and home-price increases in recent years as expanding technology firms spurred a population boom. While high-paid employees at companies like Microsoft, Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. can often afford higher housing costs, people working outside the industry have struggled. Rising rents have also exacerbated homelessness.

“Teachers, nurses, first responders and many in key roles at nonprofits, businesses and tech companies now begin and end their workdays with long commutes,” Microsoft said. “Our goal is to move as quickly as possible with targeted investments that will have an outsized impact.”

Even as the torrid pace of home-price appreciation slows in Seattle and the Bay Area, many residents are still feeling pinched. Under mounting public pressure, local leaders and businesses have been looking for ways to respond. In some cases, that’s meant including affordable housing in new corporate developments, as Alphabet’s Google is planning to do in San Jose, California. Tech moguls like Inc.’s Marc Benioff have backed taxes on businesses to help the homeless.

As housing prices have shot up in the Seattle area, Microsoft has been somewhat insulated from public criticism, because the company’s headquarters are in a suburb. Amazon’s main offices, in contrast, are near downtown and the company sparked outrage last year for opposing a city tax on large employers that would have raised funds to tackle homelessness.

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