Microsoft announced a commitment of $500 million to “advance affordable housing solutions” in the greater Seattle area. The company’s goal is to relieve the difficulty for lower and middle-income employees to find affordable living close to where they work. Seattle, as well as other urban areas, has made housing unaffordable for many. This includes the rapid influx of tech workers. In fact this pledge is the largest in the company’s 44-year history.
The $500 million will be broken up into three ways. $225 million will be for preserving and developing middle–income housing on King County’s Eastside. Giving out loans at below-market interest rate to help builders with cost while building “workforce housing”. This portion is to help middle-income families of four making $62K-124K. Another, $250 million is to help construction of affordable housing in the Puget Sound region. Loans will be set at market rate to help support families of four making up to $62K. Last, $25 million donated of the $500 million will go to the regions low-income and homeless residents. This will help the Seattle Mariners to add to their staff at the King County Bar Association legal clinic, which helps with people facing eviction. The donation will also help with Seattle and King County’s push to consolidate its homelessness services.
With the cost of everything that goes into building affordable housing, it is hard to say how much effect the $500 million will have. Microsoft has a massive expansion in its Redmond headquarters, adding 2.5 million square feet and creating room for 8,000 new employees. This pledge for affordable housing came after the announcement of their headquarters expansion. The plan is still in the draft state with no real timeline, in addition the company expects to turn only a small profit from the loans.
“The loans are intended to help developer’s kick-start development and preservation projects by giving them bridge and longer-term loans they can use to borrow additional funds.
Building the number of units the company envisions will not be easy because housing development remains expensive. Based on the typical costs, if the full half-billion dollars were plowed directly into one project, it would only produce about 1,000 housing units.” (SeattleTimes.com)
Below is a piece of the Microsoft draft, on what they plan to do to help.
“We will consider opportunities to advance housing affordability in the region, including but not limited to:
1) Making available at no cost, at deep discount, or for long-term lease, under-utilized publicly owned properties.
2) Updating zoning and land use regulations to increase density near current and planned public transit.
3) Reducing or waiving parking requirements in transit corridors to help reduce overall development costs.
4) Reducing or waiving impact and other development-related fees.
5) Streamlining and accelerating the permitting process for low- and middle-income housing projects to improve developer certainty.
6) Providing tax exemptions and credits to incent low- and middle-income housing development.
7) Updating building codes to promote more housing growth and innovative, low-cost development.”