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Bad neighbor: Facebook is building housing that anyone can rent, but at what price?

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It’s hard enough to escape Facebook online, but soon you may even be able to count the social network as a real-life landlord and neighbor.

The company has announced that it is building 1,500 new housing units alongside its intended expansion of its Menlo Park headquarters. The new homes will be open to the general public, and roughly 15 per cent of the units will be set aside for low-to-middle-income families, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The move is being viewed as an attempt to appease critics of Facebook’s major development plans, which will see it extend its massive campus by approximately 126,000 sq feet. The project is designed to accommodate the extra 6,500 new employees Facebook is planning to recruit.

Opponents to the major expansion have long claimed the influx of affluent techies into the East Palo Alto area will hike housing prices and compound income inequality. Facebook’s solution shows that it has taken those concerns to heart, and has resolved to do something about them. But will it be enough?

Former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt is leading a coalition against the city review process on developments, a group that was formed after the Facebook expansion plans came to light. “We’re on the verge of transforming this area into a super-rich, exclusive series of company towns,” said Schmidt. “We want a more orderly and balanced kind of growth.” Schmidt is pushing for Facebook to commit to building the housing units before it welcomes its new workers.

“Facebook is committed to being a good neighbor,” said a spokesperson for the company. “We understand that our growth affects the everyday lives of our neighbors, and we want to be respectful and thoughtful about how we approach our expansion.”

Supporters of Facebook’s plan, including Ray Mueller (a member of the Menlo Park City Council), claim that its housing initiative will make a difference, and should influence other corporations to do the same.

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Saqib Shah
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