Tuesday, 12 November, 2019

Microsoft pledges $500m to boost affordable housing

Rain falls on a homeless encampment called Nickelsville on Nov. 3 2015 in Seattle Washington Rain falls on a homeless encampment called Nickelsville on Nov. 3 2015 in Seattle Washington. George Rose—Getty Images
Rhonda Young | 20 January, 2019, 04:05

Microsoft is investing $500 million to help develop affordable housing and address homelessness in the Seattle area as the growth of tech companies in the region continues to flood the real estate market with high-salaried workers, leaving many other people behind. Microsoft will fund construction for homes that will be attainable for middle- and low-income residents.

Microsoft will lend $225m at below market rate returns for preserving and developing new middle-income housing on King County's Eastside, and $250m at market rate returns to support low-income housing across the King County region.

Microsoft has survived a bad year for tech companies.

In an effort to make a bigger impact, Microsoft also plans to encourage policy changes for the development of affordable housing in state legislative sessions. Microsoft was only a few years old when it moved from New Mexico to the Seattle area city of Bellevue in 1979, and now has its headquarters in nearby Redmond.

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Since then, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been criticized for the way it's implemented the amendment in state law. They believe it's a first step toward dropping appeals in other cases like the limitation on the number of growers licenses.

It's unclear how much housing Microsoft's pledge will produce.

Half Microsoft's money will go towards building low-income housing.

"Teachers, nurses, first responders and many in key roles at nonprofits, businesses and tech companies now begin and end their workdays with long commutes".

These are workers who "teach our kids in schools, and put out the fires in our houses and keep us alive in the hospital", said Microsoft President Brad Smith in the report.

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The company will offer $225 million in low-priced loans to subsidize the preservation and construction of middle-income or "work force" housing in six cities - Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Sammamish and Renton - where the company has more than 50,000 employees. Another $5 million will pay for a new joint agency on homelessness formed by Seattle and King Country.

According to Microsoft, it began working on the plan eight months ago, which means it preceded the Seattle City Council's failed head-tax effort previous year. Last year, Seattle's City Council passed a "head tax" on employee-hours at large companies - only to abruptly repeal it under pressure from Amazon. Amazon's main offices, in contrast, are near downtown and the company sparked outrage a year ago for opposing a city tax on large employers that would have raised funds to tackle homelessness.

"With these and similar investments, it's possible to lend money, accelerate progress, be repaid and then lend this money again".

"Ultimately, a healthy business needs to be part of a healthy community", they wrote.

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Meanwhile, unseeded American Amanda Anisimova continued her dream run, ousting 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. Wozniacki lashed out at tennis tournaments for offering Sharapova wild cards after she return from her doping ban.

"The reality is we're requiring more and more people who are so important to our communities to contemplate living farther and farther away", Smith said Thursday.

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