Microsoft Investing Half a Billion Dollars into Affordable Seattle-Area Housing

Microsoft is spending $500 million to help affordable housing

Microsoft has pledged $500 million to address homelessness and build affordable housing units in the Seattle and Puget Sound area, a region that has grown prosperous as the tech industry has swelled but is increasingly plagued by an affordable housing crisis. The Seattle area has long seen rocketing housing prices due to the demand from high-paid employees from Microsoft and Amazon, which are both headquartered in the area.

The plan is for the money to fund construction for homes affordable not only to the company's own non-tech workers, but also for teachers, firefighters and other middle- and low-income residents.

Various loans and grants will subsidize construction of affordable housing in the area, where home prices have soared 96 percent while income hasn't kept up. It will put an additional $250 million into low-income housing across the region. In June, for example, Amazon pressured Seattle City Council to repeal a "head tax" that would have levied a per employee tax on businesses making more than $20 million, the Atlantic reported.

The pledge, announced today by company president Brad Smith, is a response to the widening affordability gap in Seattle region, which is at least partially attributed to the economic boom responsible for the increase in house prices in and around the city, according to a report by CNBC. At the same time, home prices in the area have skyrocketed, almost doubling in the past eight years, according to the Times.

"Ultimately, a healthy business needs to be part of a healthy community", they wrote. But even there, she said, new homes run at least $565,000 - far above the city's median of about $375,000.

"The push of people leaving Seattle and leaving the Eastside because it's no longer affordable has really started to have a strain on Auburn", she said Thursday. The proposed tax would have required big businesses to help fund affordable housing and homeless services.

She also noted that helping people live closer to their jobs reduces driving, helping the environment, and improves their quality of life, since they don't have to spend so much time in their auto. However, as a single corporation can only do so much, help will also need to be provided by the mayors of the surrounding areas, who can provide tax incentives for new construction, making changes to zoning to help increase housing, and providing public land near transit areas.

Microsoft now employs about 135,000 individuals, about 50,000 of which are crammed in and around Redmond.

"With these and similar investments, it's possible to lend money, accelerate progress, be repaid and then lend this money again".

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