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Technology

Microsoft pledges $250 million more for Seattle-area affordable housing

A man lies in a tent near an overpass in Seattle in 2016.
A man lies in a tent near an overpass in Seattle in 2016, with other tents nearby. Homelessness is a deep concern in the area.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

One year after Microsoft Corp. announced it was committing $500 million toward affordable housing in the Seattle area, it’s upping that pledge by half.

The additional $250 million will provide a line of credit to help the Washington State Finance Commission fund bout 3,000 additional units of affordable housing, Jane Broom, the company’s senior director of philanthropies, said in a blog post Wednesday.

Microsoft is based in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, Wash., and its success has helped the region boom economically, with Amazon.com Inc. and other tech companies expanding. But along with that boom, the cost of housing there has skyrocketed. Homelessness is deeply concerning to residents of the area, where even people with good middle-income jobs, such as teachers and nurses, have been priced out of the cities where they work.

Microsoft announced its $500-million commitment last January, saying much of the money would provide market-rate or below-market-rate loans to developers who want to build affordable housing. Some was also to go toward grants to address homelessness, such as by providing legal help to those facing eviction.

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Since then, Silicon Valley giants including Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. have pledged billions of dollars toward easing similar problems in California.

The first in a series of stories examines some of the factors contributing to homelessness in Orange County, and who and where homeless people are.

In her blog post, Broom wrote that Microsoft was encouraged by growing momentum behind the effort to address homelessness in the region but that it remained a serious challenge. Data from real-estate website Zillow show that the Puget Sound region’s affordable-housing gap is growing, not shrinking: Last year, the area was short 316,000 middle- and low-income housing units, up from 305,000 in 2018.

That 3.6% increase was far less than increases of about 10% in each of the prior two years — but still an increase, Broom said.

“While we’re encouraged to see this growth rate fall, it’s clear that what we really need to do is see the housing gap fall, not continue to increase,” Broom wrote.

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Microsoft also announced Wednesday it was making $55 million in investments and grants toward its original $500-million commitment, bringing its total allocated over the last year to $380 million used to support the preservation or creation of more than 6,500 affordable housing units in the Greater Seattle area.

Some $50 million of the newly allocated funding will go to a new partnership — known as the Evergreen Impact Housing Fund — between the Seattle Foundation and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission with support from JPMorgan Chase. The fund will promote the development of 1,250 low-income-housing units east of Seattle.

Broom said Microsoft was pleased that Seattle and King County last month created a regional homelessness agency, and that the company intended to continue working with mayors in the region to remove zoning and other barriers to affordable housing.


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