Microsoft Pledges $500 Million to Tackle Seattle’s Affordable Housing Crisis

January 17, 2019, 10:14 AM UTC

Microsoft is taking the housing crisis in the Seattle area into its own hands.

The tech giant announced Wednesday that it would commit $500 million to advance affordable housing solutions across the region. The pledge, which is the company’s largest in its 44-year history, follows a recognition that while tech companies like Microsoft have brought jobs to the communities in which they operate, adequate and affordable housing did not necessarily follow.

Microsoft’s approach to the issue stands in stark contrast to that of Amazon, which effectively crippled a planned tax in Seattle last year that would have required large businesses to pay a per-employee tax to address homelessness and affordable housing shortages. Amazon reportedly said it would stop construction on a new building in the Seattle area if the tax passed, claiming it disincentivized job creation.

As part of its pledge, Microsoft plans to fund affordable housing not just for its own employees, but also other middle- and low- income residents, including teachers, nurses, and firefighters. The exact number of units is yet to be determined, but Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Seattle Times that they hope it creates “tens of thousands.”

The company plans to lend $225 million at subsidized rates to build middle-income housing in six cities east of Seattle, while another $250 million will go into low-income housing in the area. The remaining $25 million will be distributed in the form of grants to local organizations that work with the homeless. Microsoft plans to invest the money within three years.