Housing crisis forces Facebook’s billionaire owner to subsidize ‘village’ for employees

by WorldTribune Staff, July 10, 2017

Amid a deepening housing crisis in Silicon Valley, Facebook said is being forced to construct a “village” of 1,500 homes for its workers after accusing the regional government of a “failure” to invest in infrastructure.

Critics, however, say Facebook only made the problem worse when it offered $10,000 bonuses to employees to move closer to its Menlo Park campus.

Facebook’s Menlo Park campus. / Facebook photo

The average monthly rent in Menlo Park, among the highest in the U.S., has more than tripled to $3,349 since 2011 when Facebook announced it would move to the California city, according to property data site Rent Jungle.

The median house price across Silicon Valley has jumped from $535,000 in 2012 to $888,000 last year, according to real estate agency Trulia.

Facebook, however, is offering only 15 percent of its homes below market rates. The apartment block homes, which the company hopes will be built by 2021, will be available to Facebook employees and those working elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg doled out some $30 million to buy four houses surrounding his Palo Alto home in an effort to protect his privacy. He’s also spent $100 million on a 700-acre plot on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and $10 million on a home in San Francisco’s Dolores Heights.

Google, which has also been hit hard by the housing crisis, has said it would spend $30 million on 300 prefabricated apartments for workers at its campus headquarters in Mountain View.

Apple, which is in the process of moving 12,000 staff into its new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, is paying a roughly $5 million “housing mitigation fee” to the city in compensation for the burden it is placing on the city’s housing. The company estimates that its new office will lead to a 284 percent increase in demand for housing in the city.

Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation and a former federal housing commissioner, said: “We’ve reached a tipping point where costs are just so high that people are desperate to figure out a solution.”

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