Microsoft is looking to ensure a roof over employees' heads, putting up $500 million to assist with affordable housing in the Seattle area. The funds will help create homes for Microsoft's cafeteria workers and shuttle drivers, as well as other middle- and low-income residents, reports the New York Times. The Seattle Times calls it the largest pledge in the $850 billion company's 44-year history, one that "dwarfs the $100 million in annual funding for the state's Housing Trust Fund." In contrast, Seattle-based Amazon last year helped block a per-employee tax on large businesses that would've allowed for more affordable housing and homeless services. A December report from the King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force found 156,000 more affordable housing units are needed, plus an additional 88,000 by 2040 if growth continues.
"We believe everybody has a role to play," says Microsoft President Brad Smith. Within three years, the company plans to lend $225 million at subsidized rates to developers to maintain and build middle-income housing (aimed at households making $62,000 to $124,000 per year) in the Seattle suburbs near its base in Redmond, Wash. Another $250 million will be put into low-income housing, while $25 million will go to groups working with the homeless. Funds for additional projects are to be handed out as the loans are repaid, Smith tells the New York Times, adding a hope that other companies will follow Microsoft's lead. A $500 million pledge is "nowhere close to what's needed to solve this problem," he says. "There is almost no level of housing that isn't direly needed," adds task force head Claudia Balducci. (Addicted to tech? Seattle is a good place to get help.)