Implicitly acknowledging the devastating effect that its growth has had on the Seattle area, Microsoft today announced that it will do something to help: It is pledging $500 million in aid aimed at helping to increase affordable housing in the area.
“If we’re going to make progress, we’ll all need to work together as a community,” a blog post attributed to both Microsoft President Brad Smith and Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood reads. “Ultimately, a healthy business needs to be part of a healthy community. And a healthy community must have housing within the economic reach of every part of the community, including the many dedicated people who provide the vital services on which we all rely.”
The $500 million will be split between loans and grants “to accelerate the construction of more affordable housing across the region,” Microsoft explains. Almost half of that sum will go towards preserving existing affordable housing—which is no doubt now surrounded by McMansions—in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton and Sammamish. (Microsoft’s corporate headquarters are in Redmond.) Half will go towards new affordable housing across all of the King County region. And $25 million is headed to philanthropic grants to address homelessness in the greater Seattle region.
Microsoft is also working with local government to help solve the problem, a partnership it says is crucial for success. The mayors of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, Sammamish, Auburn, Kent and Federal Way have all agreed to take steps related to zoning, permits, and tax incentives to aid in this effort. And Microsoft is now petitioning the Washington state government to double its investment supporting very-low-income individuals and families.
Microsoft currently employs about 135,000 individuals, about 50,000 of which are crammed in and around Redmond. Its expansion, not just in recent years, has led to overcrowding, traffic, and a dramatic spike in home prices in the area.