The initial reaction to the company’s announcement was positive.
“There is almost no level of housing that isn’t direly needed,” said Claudia Balducci, a member of the King County Council who helps lead the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force.
A report in December by the task force said that the region needs 156,000 more affordable housing units, and will need 88,000 more units by 2040 to accommodate future growth.
A growing body of research has tied the lack of affordable housing to increasing homelessness. A December study from the real estate website Zillow said that was particularly true when households pay more than a third of their income in rent. The New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle regions — the country’s largest tech hubs — have all already crossed that threshold.
“The idea that you can live in your bubble and put your fingers in your ears just doesn’t work anymore,” said Steve Schwartz, head of public affairs at Tableau Software, which is based in Seattle.
Amazon in recent years has worked closely with Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter for women and children in Seattle, and is integrating a shelter for about 65 families into one of its new buildings. Amazon has paid tens of millions of dollars to the city’s affordable housing trust fund as fees to build in the core of Seattle.
Amazon declined to comment.
Google supported the City of Mountain View’s plan to add 10,000 housing units in an area it’s developing, with 20 percent designated for lower-income residents. And Facebook has planned to build 1,500 apartments near its Menlo Park headquarters, with 15 percent to be affordable.
Microsoft has begun a major overhaul of its main campus in Redmond, committing billions of dollars in renovations and connecting it to a light rail station under construction. The company helped finance a successful campaign for voters to approve more property taxes to pay for transportation. This new investment in housing takes its commitments a step further.
“This is where Microsoft is going to be, and the region needs to work,” Ms. Balducci said. “I don’t think this is wholly altruism.”