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January 17, 2019

Microsoft is investing $500 million to tackle Seattle housing crisis

Microsoft is investing $500 million to make homes more affordable in the Seattle area, making it the latest major tech company to wade into local housing issues.

The software giant, which is headquartered in the region, said Wednesday that it will partner with nonprofit groups to address "the affordable housing crisis." The money will go toward building new homes and preserving existing housing.

Microsoft (MSFT) is specifically targeting the region near where it's expanding its Redmond headquarters to add space for up to 8,000 new employees.

The region's median income "hasn't kept pace with rising housing costs, increasingly making it impossible for lower- and middle-income workers to afford to live close to where they work," Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood wrote in a blog post.

Other tech companies are wrestling with similar issues in their backyards. An estimated 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco, which is in the middle of a housing crisis of its own. Critics say the situation is made worse by the influx of technology workers with high salaries.

In order to tackle the problem, San Francisco voters in November passed the largest tax increase in the city's history, doubling its budget to fight homelessness. Debates over the issue pitted Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff against Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey.

Seattle has also turned to taxes for help. Last May, the city council unanimously passed a measure that would tax big businesses in the city to alleviate its homelessness and affordable housing problems. The final package ended up being about half the size of the original proposal, which Seattle-based Amazon (AMZN) had opposed.

The Microsoft plan will allocate $25 million of the $500 million specifically to address homelessness.

The company plans to spend the majority of the funds over the next three years.

"It will take years of dedicated work for the region to put this problem behind it," Smith and Hood said. "We'll all need to learn and work together to ensure that everyone in our community has not just a roof over their head, but a place they can call their home."

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