Giving Compass' Take:
- Tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are planning to invest billions of dollars into the housing crisis, but experts say it might not be enough.
- Skylar Olsen, Zillow's Director of Economic Research, points out that while philanthropic investment is helpful, communities may require changes at the housing policy level (in addition to capital). How can donors address this issue from a policy perspective?
- Learn more about the policies that could bolster affordable housing.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Microsoft pledged $500 million for affordable housing in January. Five months later, Google said it would invest $1 billion to help the Bay Area housing crisis. Amazon and Salesforce also announced contributions of their own this year.
Major tech companies are stepping up to help mitigate affordable housing shortages, caused in part by the influx of high-income labor they have imported to the Seattle and San Francisco regions.
But can that cash truly make a dent when hundreds of thousands of units are needed?
Some experts say that while this is a welcome response, it won't do nearly as much as some hope to generate sufficient housing.
"If there's just someone who steps up and says, 'Hey, I'm a really rich person, I want to give $500 million to affordable housing,' everyone will think it's great — until you actually do the math" said Gregg Colburn, an assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington's College of Built Environments.
But these corporations simply don't have the scale necessary to close the wide gap between affordable housing needed and that which is currently available, Colburn said. The gap is just under 185,000 units in Seattle alone, according to data Microsoft compiled from Zillow, the Census, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across the entire Puget Sound region, that gap is some 305,000 units.
Zillow Director of Economic Research Skylar Olsen noted that the company is keeping its eye on the effects of a recent move in Minneapolis to ban single-family zoning.
"Philanthropy is a great step but affordable housing is a big problem that needs a diverse range of solutions and there is no universal template that fits for each community," Olsen said in a statement. "Policies focused on creating more housing in general are beneficial, as well as those focused on providing both a supply of and access to affordable housing."
Read the full article about affordable housing at GeekWire.