Facebook to build housing in Silicon Valley for the first time

Architectural renderings of Facebook’s proposed Willow Campus in Menlo Park, California – REUTERS

The lack of housing in California’s Silicon Valley has become so critical that Facebook Inc on Friday offered taking homebuilding into its support for the first time with a project to construct 1,500 units near its headquarters.

The success of Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and other tech firms has strained communities in the San Francisco Bay area that were not ready for an influx of tens of thousands of operators during the past ten years. Home appraisals and travel times have risen to a new high.

Tech firms have answered with measures such as internet-equipped buses for workers with long transportation times. Facebook has given at least $10,000 in incentives to employees who move closer to its facilities.

Those steps, though, have not decreased complaints that tech businesses are making cities expensive, and they have often failed to solve the area’s housing deficiency.

“The problem with Silicon Valley is you don’t have enough supply to keep up with the demand,” said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at real estate research firm CoreLogic.

With Facebook’s development project, the firm said it desired to invest in Menlo Park, the town some 45 miles south of San Francisco where it transferred in 2011.

The group said it seeks to build a “village” that will also have 1.75 million square feet of office space and 125,000 square feet of retail space.

“Part of our vision is to create a neighbourhood centre that provides long-needed community services,” John Tenanes, Facebook’s vice president for global facilities, said in a statement.

The 1,500 Facebook home units would be open to anybody, not just workers, and 15 percent of them would be given at below market rates, the company announced.

Facebook said it anticipates the evaluation process to take two years.

Alphabet has used a smaller step, buying 300 modular studio units for short-term worker housing, the Wall Street Journal published last month.

Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith stated in a conversation that there were worries about whether the Facebook project would further worsen traffic, a subject the city’s planning department would analyse.

She said that Facebook’s plan goes with the town’s long-term plan for growth and that the city was delighted about the added housing.

Facebook’s Tenanes said the density of the intended project could also lure spending on transit projects.

“The region’s failure to continue to invest in our transportation infrastructure alongside growth has led to congestion and delay,” he said.