Free Enterprise Can Do it – Facebook to Start Building Homes
To shore up city support [a plan for 6,500 new employees in Menlo Park, CA], Facebook earlier this month made an unusual pledge for a tech company. It would build at least 1,500 units of housing, meant not specifically for Facebook employees, but for the general public.
Concerns about Silicon Valley’s housing shortage are turning the world’s leading social media company into an apartment developer.
Fast-growing Facebook Inc. is in the midst of a push to expand its headquarters complex in its hometown of Menlo Park, Calif., a plan for 6,500 new employees that has rankled some locals frustrated with crowding.
So in an effort to shore up city support, Facebook earlier this month made an unusual pledge for a tech company. It would build at least 1,500 units of housing, meant not specifically for Facebook employees, but for the general public.
The novel move is a gesture intended to address a growing frustration in the region: too many workers, too few homes.
“We’re on the verge of transforming this area into a superrich, exclusive series of company towns,” said Steve Schmidt, a former Menlo Park mayor and member of the group that is opposing Facebook’s expansion. “We want a more orderly and balanced kind of growth.”
Mr. Schmidt said Facebook’s plans for housing would help some, but it would take years to be built, and meanwhile the jobs-housing imbalance is only slated to grow. For instance, Facebook plans to add more office buildings on the same property where it is planning the housing—a development that would come after the office buildings currently under review in Menlo Park.
“What we’d like to see is that the housing be built first,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Still, city officials are supportive of the Facebook initiative. Ray Mueller, a member of the Menlo Park City Council, said the housing wouldn’t fix all the region’s housing problems, but the offer is an important step.
“If other corporations stepped forward, it would help make a big dent,” he said.
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