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Does Apple's $400M Housing Spend Go Far Enough In Housing-Starved Bay Area?

Apple has spent the first $400M of its $2.5B commitment to addressing California's housing shortage, the company said Monday.

A rendering of the Page Street Studios San Jose housing project financed by Apple in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

The trillion-dollar tech company's opening allocation has several targets, including four Bay Area affordable housing developments totaling 250 units and financed in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley, as well as continued mortgage and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.

The move was met with skepticism from some housing advocacy groups, who pointed out the latest commitment doesn't address the underlying causes of the state's housing crisis. 

"We need roughly an additional 2.2 million housing units delivered over the next 50 years in the Bay Area alone across all income levels," SPUR, an urban policy think tank, said in a statement.

"In order to build the housing that we need, we are going to need to zone for more housing, make it less time consuming and costly to build that housing, create significant permanent funding for affordable housing and protect the existing homes that [house] low-income families."

The median price of homes currently listed in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area is $795K, while that for homes in Santa Clara County is barely under $1.1M, according to Zillow

Apple had a market cap of about $1.7 trillion as of Monday.

The company's ongoing work in the housing sector makes it one of several looking to address California's housing crisis. Its November pledge followed $1B commitments made by Google and Facebook earlier in the year. Microsoft, too, pledged $500M last year but for the Seattle area.

Apple's work in addressing the housing crisis has faced high-profile criticisms from policymakers who say money alone won't solve the issue. 

During a Bisnow event closely following Apple's announcement last year, California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, said Apple has been silent on the issue of housing policy reform, the method Wiener and others believe is the best answer to the housing crisis. 

All told, the Bay Area needs to build nearly 450,000 new homes between 2023 and 2030, according to the latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment for the state of California. Between 2000 and 2018, the Bay Area built about 380,000 new units, according to SPUR and the Concord Group

"The only way we really get out of the mess we are in is by addressing the underlying challenges that have created California's structural housing shortage," SPUR said.

In addition to four new affordable housing developments, which an Apple spokesperson said will go up in San Jose, Santa Rose and Pittsburg, California, and first-time homebuyer support, Apple has partnered with the California Housing Finance Agency in an affordable housing investment support program.

The program, which Apple said is the first of its kind in California, will make more funding available for very low- to moderate-income housing, and at a lower cost to developers. 

Apple is also working with Destination: Home, a Silicon Valley public-private partnership, in efforts that have already helped fund the construction of more than 1,000 new units of affordable and supportive housing for vulnerable populations in Silicon Valley.

“We were able to immediately invest their funding into several new housing developments that will provide a permanent home to vulnerable residents across the region and reinforce our Homelessness Prevention System at a time when we’re seeing an unprecedented number of at-risk families in need," Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving said in a statement.

Apple also has a partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley. A third of units at Page Street Studios, an 82-unit development financed by Apple and Housing Trust Silicon Valley, are for chronically homeless people, according to developer Charities Housing Development Corp.'s website.

Apple's work with Housing Trust Silicon Valley is part of the duo's $150M Affordable Housing fund launched in March.

The company's ongoing work with the California Housing Finance Agency goes toward an assistance program in which, historically, 65% of borrowers have identified as Hispanic, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander or American Indian, according to Apple.

The tech company's overall multiyear $2.5B commitment entails $1B for first-time homebuyer support and another $1B for the affordable housing investment support fund with the state. It also involves making $300M of Apple-owned land available for affordable housing, the $150M Housing Trust Silicon Valley fund and $50M toward Destination: Home.