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Should Tech Giants Do More to Address Things Like Affordable Housing?

Google North Bayshore Proposal

When we hear suggestions like tech giants are taking over the world, are we being dramatic, or is it the truth?  I kind of think that it’s becoming the truth, but not in the way that you think.  You might think that an organization like Google or Facebook knows about your every move, so how does that equate they’re taking over the world? Think about the influence that they have on how we live our lives.  If you take public transit, chances are that you use your phone to plan that trip.  Or, even if you drive a car, you likely rely on some kind of technology like Waze to help get you to your destination.

But technology is now going so much farther, and this is the kind of stuff that I find extremely interesting.  I think that technology has the ability to make a hugely positive impact on people’s lives if we allow it to.  Recently Google has published a development proposal for the North Bayshore area and it would address the issue that the Bay Area is having with housing.  

The proposal includes up to 8,000 new residential units, 6,600 of which, would sit on Google’s own property. Approximately 20% of the housing would be marketed as “affordable housing”, which would include rentals that are marketed for individuals making $44,000 per year.  

Why do I like this? Because I think that these tech giants need to take some kind of responsibility for their actions. Meaning, they’re creating these hubs where there are thousands of jobs for the taking, but with that typically the cost of housing sky rockets.  If you don’t work at Google, you may not be able to live in that particular area because housing just isn’t affordable.

This particular initiative will also include a mix of space beyond Google’s own office needs. About 32% of the proposed area would be open space that includes parks, while there would be up to 400,000 square feet of communal retail space.  In a statement to CNBC, Google’s Michael Tymoff said that the company was aiming for “Complete Neighborhoods” that both put more of an emphasis on homes and focus on people over cars.  

As I said, tech giants like Google should be putting an emphasis on people over cars.  Or doing whatever they need to in order to ensure a wholesome and inclusive community around the service that they’re providing.  What do I mean?  Well, similar to Google providing affordable housing, what other infrastructure can they provide to make the communities around them more livable?  Maybe they need to focus on education or giving back to enhance the publicly funded infrastructure?  Whatever it is, this is why I think that tech giants have a huge responsibility to “give back”.

What we don’t know is whether or not this proposal will go forward.  Local officials are the ones who are going to make those decisions.  The big question that will need to be addressed is access to housing.  As with much of the housing stock in the Bay Area, Mountain View’s apartment and housing costs are incredibly high.  It’s not uncommon for the less affluent workers to commute an extreme distance, while others have to deal with long bus rides.  Regardless, though, this is something that I think Google and others should be addressing in one way or another.