In November, tech giant Apple announced a $2.5 billion plan to address the housing crisis in California, becoming the latest big tech company to devote money to a problem that local lawmakers and economists believe it helped create. The iPhone maker’s plan includes a $1 billion investment fund for affordable housing, and another $1 billion to buy mortgages. Apple also intends to make a 40-acre, $300 million property it owns in San Jose available for new affordable housing. In addition, the company plans to donate $50 million to address the causes of homelessness in the area.
On first reading, the commitment from Apple seems like a long-overdue good news story from the tech world. And in many ways, it is. The money proposed is by no means insignificant and there is a new, demonstrable willingness to play a more active role in tackling a major issue affecting local populations that tech giants have previously tended to ignore.
However, the question is whether the plans are enough. This is especially pertinent given the hand companies such as Apple have played in driving up house prices with the influx of their highly-paid tech workers. Apple’s commitment, even when taken with the combined $2 billion pledged by Facebook and Google earlier in the year, would buy only approximately 10,000 new housing units in California. This is a minor dent in the target of 3.5 million affordable homes by 2025 the McKinsey Global Institute says is needed to meet projected housing demand. Apple and the other tech giants will need to get creative, approach the problem holistically and collaborate with other companies and institutions to truly be on the frontline of tackling California’s housing crisis.