Facebook steps up efforts to support its Menlo Park community with $20M housing donation

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Facebook has announced it is partnering with a coalition of local community groups to support affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As part of the initiative, Facebook is promising to donate $20 million to a series of local projects that include the development of low-cost housing units in Menlo Park, a tenant assistance fund, and vocational training for local residents.

Facebook is also busy planning a major expansion of its own HQ in the locality. The move will see the company extend its campus to make room for an additional 6,500 employees. Last month, Facebook opened the doors to its new flagship building, a 430,000 square foot space where it is housing just under a third of its global team. And, earlier this year, the company casually dropped $400 million on a 56-acre industrial park close to its main building.

However, some residents aren’t welcoming its construction plans. An alliance of local community members led by former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt is opposing the tech firm’s development proposals. They claim the influx of affluent Facebook employees into the region will drive up house rental costs in the East Palo Alto area, and compound income inequality.

“Whether it is in promoting (developer) Greenheart or Facebook, we have found city officials to be oblivious to possible alternatives to unbridled growth,” group member Martin Lamarque told Palo Alto publication The Daily News in August.

San Francisco currently ranks first in California for economic disparity, according to the California Budget and Policy Center. Although Silicon Valley has contributed to the creation of half a million jobs since 2010, it has fallen short when it comes to affordable housing. Between 2007 and 2014, the area saw a mere 26 percent of new homes built for low-income residents, a shortfall of 26,000 homes.

To combat this housing crisis, Facebook is committing the vast majority of its donation ($18.5 million) to develop and preserve affordable homes. Additionally, it will contribute $500,000 for a tenant assistance fund, and $250,000 for the building and upkeep of housing.

To help expand economic opportunities for local residents, the company will contribute $625,000 toward vocational training for science, tech, engineering, and mathematics jobs. Facebook will also establish a full-time community liaison to ensure local residents can connect with open positions at its own HQ.

“Menlo Park faces the same challenges as many of our neighboring communities in how to secure and grow our diverse residential neighborhoods with housing prices soaring, managing the onslaught of traffic impacts and how to deliver the best education we can to our children,” said Menlo Park Mayor, Rich Cline. “I think such challenges become opportunities if we find ways to unite our cities and community organizations and bring in bold policies all with a revenue model to help bring about real and positive change. Facebook is the ideal partner to rally our region into action.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the following about the initiative in a post on his official Page on the social network: “Affordable housing is a problem beyond the Bay Area, too. We can’t fix it by ourselves, but if we figure out ideas that work here, then I hope we’ll be able to bring them to more cities and countries in the future.”

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