Google pledges $1 billion for Bay Area housing. Gavin Newsom hopes it ‘inspires’ others

Tech giant Google announced Tuesday that it will spend $1 billion to build 20,000 affordable homes in the Bay Area as part of an effort to alleviate part of California’s housing crisis.

“As we work to build a more helpful Google, we know our responsibility to help starts at home. For us, that means being a good neighbor in the place where it all began over 20 years ago: the San Francisco Bay Area,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a statement.

Pichai laid out how the company will spend that money over the next decade.

For starters, he said the company will “repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing.”

That will be followed by building at least 15,000 new homes “at all income levels in the Bay Area, including housing options for middle and low-income families,” Pichai wrote in a statement.

The company will spend $250 million to establish an investment fund to provide incentives for developers to build at least 5,000 more affordable housing units.

The company will also grant $50 million to nonprofits focused on homeless and displaced people, according to the statement.

The move has been hailed by a variety of Bay Area politicians, including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Google recognizes that it has an important role to play in addressing California’s cost crisis. I applaud Google’s leadership for stepping forward to build affordable homes,” Newsom said in a statement through his office. “I hope today’s announcement inspires other companies — big and small — to make similar direct investments in housing affordability throughout our state.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also weighed in on the move, praising Google for tackling the area’s affordable housing crisis.

“For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge,” Liccardo wrote in a statement. “We look forward to working with Google to ensure today’s announcement manifests into housing that will benefit thousands of San Jose residents struggling under the burden of high rents.”

The California state senator who wrote a controversial bill that would have compelled cities to allow more housing construction near jobs and transit also praised Google’s investment. The measure, Senate Bill 50, was tabled for the year.

“Today, Google stepped up with a major investment in and commitment to housing in the Bay Area. To solve our housing emergency, all of us — government, business, housing advocates, neighbors — must work together. Today’s announcement is a strong step in the right direction,” wrote Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.