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Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion To Ease Shortage Of Affordable Housing In California


Apple said today it's going to spend $2 1/2 billion to ease the shortage of affordable housing in its home state of California. With this pledge, Apple joins a growing list of tech companies vowing to fight the housing crunch. NPR's Jim Zarroli has details.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Apple said about a billion dollars will be used to invest in affordable housing in California. Another billion will be used to help first-time homebuyers get mortgages. And Apple says it will also donate land it owns in San Jose, land it says is worth about $300 million. Amie Fishman of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California says the money will make a big difference in addressing the housing crisis.

AMIE FISHMAN: We think it is bold and critical. It is so important that Apple has stepped up, along with other tech companies.

ZARROLI: Apple is only the latest tech giant to give money to address the housing shortage. Facebook said last month that it would give a billion dollars. Google has promised a similar amount. Microsoft is doing the same thing in Seattle. Many of these companies have grown so big so fast that they've exacerbated the housing shortage in places such as Silicon Valley, where restrictive zoning makes it expensive to build.

Kevin Zwick of Housing Trust Silicon Valley says there's a growing recognition among these companies that they have to be part of the solution.

KEVIN ZWICK: We've gotten into this mess from generations of having the wrong housing policy and land use policy. And in order to get out of it, it's going to take big, bold, innovative initiatives with significant amounts of new investment and money.

ZARROLI: The money comes at a time when the tech industry is having a huge image problem. Facebook and Google have become so powerful that there have been calls to regulate them more and even break them up. There's heightened scrutiny over the negative influence they've had on elections, and even society more broadly. Donations like these are good PR. But Amie Fishman of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California says these companies and their employees are also feeling the impact of the housing crisis around them.

FISHMAN: It is unconscionable that so many people are sleeping in the streets every night. It is unconscionable that people are driving hours and hours to and from their jobs. We are living in an unsustainable environment.

ZARROLI: In fact, many tech executives complain they're having trouble recruiting because potential employees can't afford housing. The problem has gotten so big that even the billions of dollars given by tech giants can only make a slight dent in the problem.

Jen Loving is chief executive of Destination: Home, which works with the homeless. It's getting $50 million from Apple. She says it will take a concerted effort by business and government to fix the problem.

JEN LOVING: Everyone needs to be all hands on deck. We have a crisis.

ZARROLI: Tech giants like Apple and Google have gotten so big, their growth has outpaced California's housing supply and driven up home prices. Now they're beginning to address a problem they helped create.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORCELAIN RAFT'S "GIOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.