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Silicon Valley Tech Giants Not Keeping Pace With Affordable Housing Promises

An aerial view of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California

The biggest tech employers in Silicon Valley have promised affordable housing to counteract their employees' effect on the real estate market, but have yet to make any meaningful progress.

Apple, Alphabet and Meta each made independent promises in 2019 to build affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Together, they have contributed only 1,500 units to date, The Real Deal reports. The three Silicon Valley giants, not to mention three of the biggest companies in the world, have been major contributors to a rise in real estate prices steep enough that the area's housing affordability crisis is considered a human rights violation by the United Nations.

When it still was named Facebook, Meta promised to contribute 20,000 affordable units to the state of California by 2029, but has yet to deliver any units, TRD reports. So far, its only financial commitments have been loans to fund 750 affordable units. Alphabet, Google's parent company, pledged to build 15,000 affordable units on its own land, but has not commenced any construction and only received permits for a quarter of that amount. An Apple-funded project in the northeastern suburb of Pittsburg will deliver 30 units when it opens this year.

Even for such massively influential companies, the lack of progress on affordable housing is not just due to a lack of political will. Many of the pricier suburbs of San Francisco have passed restrictive zoning laws aimed at keeping density low. Even where a project isn't explicitly forbidden, taking a unit of affordable housing from the start of planning to delivery takes an average of six years in the Bay Area.

Meta, Alphabet and Apple have all remained publicly committed to addressing housing affordability in their home market, and less than six years have passed since their pledges. But the slow start to proceedings does not inspire confidence in Google's ability to deliver on its pledge to fund housing in San Jose, or Amazon's $2B affordable housing promise; both were made in early 2021.