Saturday, July 30, 2016

Facebook Apartments Won’t Fix Housing—But They’re a Good Start

Wired reports:
Facebook is getting into real estate. This week, the company proposed building 1,500 apartments near its campus in Menlo Park, California, 15 percent of which it would set aside for low-income families. Urban planners and local developers call it a generous gesture that could bring sorely needed housing to the area.

Facebook isn’t being totally altruistic here. The company plans to hire 6,500 employees within the next few years. To accommodate them, it wants to build two new office buildings and a 200-room hotel on a 58-acre plot of land kitty-corner from its original campus. But many locals, including former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt, aren’t on board with the idea. Earlier this month, in a letter to Menlo Park senior planner Kyle Peralta, Schmidt argued Facebook’s expansion would increase automobile traffic and hike up home prices in what’s already one of the most expensive regions in the US.

Technology companies are playing an increasingly large role in how cities grow—and not always for the better. The Wall Street Journal reports that San Mateo and Santa Clara counties—the heart of Silicon Valley—added 385,000 jobs between 2010 and 2015, but only 58,000 housing units. Unparalleled demand has led to overcrowding, soaring home prices, and fleets of corporate shuttle buses prowling the Bay Area—so companies seeking to expand there often face significant pushback.
The struggle to add to supply in a place that hates a free market in real estate.