Face­book to build house in Sil­i­con Val­ley for first time

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The short­age of hous­ing in Cal­i­for­nia's Sil­i­con Val­ley has got­ten so se­vere that Face­book Inc on Fri­day pro­posed tak­ing home­build­ing into its own hands for the first time with a plan to con­struct 1,500 units near its head­quar­ters. The growth of Face­book, Al­pha­bet Inc's Google and other tech com­pa­nies has strained neigh­bor­hoods in the San Fran­cisco Bay area that were not pre­pared for an in­flux of tens of thou­sands of work­ers dur­ing the past decade. Home prices and com­mute times have risen. Tech com­pa­nies have re­sponded with mea­sures such as in­ter­net-equipped buses for em­ploy­ees with long com­mutes. Face­book has of­fered at least $10,000 in in­cen­tives to work­ers who move closer to its of­fices.

Those steps, though, have not re­duced com­plaints that tech com­pa­nies are mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties un­af­ford­able, and they have mostly failed to ad­dress the area's hous­ing short­age. "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 con­struc­tion plan, the com­pany said it wanted to in­vest in Menlo Park, the city some 45 miles south of San Fran­cisco where it moved in 2011. The com­pany said it wants 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 neigh­bor­hood cen­ter that pro­vides long-needed com­mu­nity ser­vices," John Te­nanes, Face­book's vice pres­i­dent for global fa­cil­i­ties, said in a state­ment.

The 1,500 Face­book hous­ing units would be open to any­one, not just em­ploy­ees, and 15 per­cent of them would be of­fered at be­low mar­ket rates, the com­pany said. Face­book said it ex­pects the re­view process to take two years. Al­pha­bet has taken a smaller step, buy­ing 300 mod­u­lar apart­ment units for short-term em­ployee hous­ing, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported last month.

Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith said in an in­ter­view that there were con­cerns about whether the Face­book plan would in­crease traf­fic, a sub­ject the city's plan­ning de­part­ment would study. She said, though, that Face­book's plan fits with the city's own long-term plan for de­vel­op­ment, and that the city was ex­cited about the ad­di­tional hous­ing. Face­book's Te­nanes said the den­sity of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment could also en­tice 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.

Global fa­cil­i­ties

MENLO PARK: This file photo taken on June 19, 2013 shows Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg speak­ing at Face­book's cor­po­rate head­quar­ters dur­ing a me­dia event. — AFP

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