Gov­er­nor chal­lenges Sil­i­con Val­ley to help build hous­ing

Cor­po­ra­tions asked to match $500M set aside for mid­dle-in­come res­i­dences

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Marisa Ken­dall mk­[email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

Gov. Gavin New­som on Thurs­day called on Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies pow­er­ing the state’s econ­omy to step up and match the money he in­tends to set aside to build work­force hous­ing, in an ef­fort to ease Cal­i­for­nia’s hous­ing cri­sis.

Speak­ing to re­porters after un­veil­ing his first pro­posed bud­get as Cal­i­for­nia’s new gov­er­nor — which ear­marks $500 mil­lion for the cre­ation of mid­dle-in­come hous­ing — New­som said he ex­pects “cor­po­rate Cal­i­for­nia” to help build the state out of its hous­ing short­age.

“I want to see the Val­ley step up and match our con­tri­bu­tions,” he said. “The work­force hous­ing is­sues have been ex­ac­er­bated by the suc­cess of

a lot of these com­pa­nies. I do not be­grudge other peo­ple’s suc­cess, but that suc­cess has cre­ated bur­dens and stress, and we are do­ing our part, and I would be ask­ing them to do their part to am­plify our ef­forts, to match those ef­forts and to in­crease our ca­pac­ity to de­liver.”

New­som did not pro­vide specifics on how he would get Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­nies to cough up that money, but he said he al­ready has been hav­ing “quiet con­ver­sa­tions” to move his plan for­ward.

In all, New­som’s pro­posed bud­get in­cludes $7.7 bil­lion to ad­dress hous­ing and home­less­ness. He in­tends to give grants to en- courage lo­cal gov­ern­ments to build hous­ing, ex­pand the state tax cred­its used to fund af­ford­able hous­ing, use state prop­er­ties for af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ment and do more to hold cities ac­count­able when they fail to meet their state­man­dated hous­ing goals.

Carl Guardino, pres­i­dent and CEO of busi­ness­backed pub­lic pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion the Sil­i­con Val­ley Lead­er­ship Group, wel­comed the gov­er­nor’s chal­lenge to lo­cal com­pa­nies.

“It is se­ri­ous money,” he said. “And we have a se­ri­ous need, with em­ploy­ers se­ri­ously con­cerned about it. So I think the tim­ing is right.”

But while Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­nies have an op­por­tu­nity to play a role in re­liev­ing the re­gion’s hous­ing short­age, they don’t have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so, Guardino said. That’s be­cause the prob­lem isn’t their fault.

“What we want to make clear,” he said, “in the next eco­nomic down­turn, jobs are no longer go­ing to be a four-let­ter word, as they seem to have be­come.”

Guardino said his group, which counts all the Val­ley’s big tech com­pa­nies among its mem­bers, also has been in talks with lo­cal com­pa­nies, coali­tions and foun­da­tions about in­vest­ing in hous­ing cre­ation. He said he ex­pects an­nounce­ments about spe­cific com­mit­ments to come soon.

Face­book and Google, both of which are ex­pand­ing their cam­puses, de­clined to com­ment on New­som’s bud­get re­marks.

Af­ford­able hous­ing ad­vo­cates for years have been pres­sur­ing and ca­jol­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies to do more. Cash-flush tech com­pa­nies that flood the re­gion with high-pay­ing jobs and bring in new work­ers often are blamed for the short­age of hous­ing that has choked the re­gion and driven home and rent prices sky-high. Here and there, com­pa­nies have been chip­ping in to ad­dress the prob­lem.

In Novem­ber, Cisco, LinkedIn and Pure Stor­age do­nated a to­tal of $20 mil­lion to non­profit Hous­ing Trust Sil­i­con Val­ley to build af­ford­able homes. Cisco pledged $ 50 mil­lion to fight home­less­ness in Sil­i­con Val­ley in March. Mean­while, Face­book has raised nearly $ 20 mil­lion for af­ford­able hous­ing through its Cat­a­lyst Hous­ing Fund, and Sales­force has made sev­eral do­na­tions to fight home­less­ness in the Bay Area. Google is plan­ning to in­clude up to 8,000 homes on a new cam­pus in the North Bayshore area of Moun­tain View.

While those ef­forts have been piece­meal, New­som’s words on Thurs­day may bring more com­pa­nies to the ef­fort, said Michael Lane, deputy di­rec­tor of af­ford­able hous­ing ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion [email protected] And it’s not just New­som’s words — it’s also the $500 mil­lion set aside for mid­dle-in­come hous­ing. Com­pa­nies likely will be more will­ing to in­vest once they see the cash New­som al­ready has put for­ward, Lane said.

“To have the state step in as a strong part­ner with a new gov­er­nor, I think that sends a strong sig­nal,” he said.

Lane said he’s ex­cited to work with New­som to ad­dress the short­age of hous­ing, which Lane called an “ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis” mar­ring Cal­i­for­nia.

“This is the most ex­cit­ing bud­get around hous­ing,” he said, “that I’ve ever seen in my ca­reer.”

Ru­fus Jef­fris, spokesman for the pro-busi­ness Bay Area Coun­cil, agreed, and com­mended the gov­er­nor for his in­ter­est in re­form­ing some of the hur­dles that re­strict hous­ing de­vel­op­ment, such as build­ing fees and en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

“Busi­nesses ab­so­lutely want to do their part to help ad­dress Cal­i­for­nia’s hous­ing cri­sis,” he wrote in an email. “They also want to see mean­ing­ful progress in fix­ing state and lo­cal poli­cies that are largely to blame for cre­at­ing that cri­sis over many decades.”

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