Commentary

Apple's $2.5B Housing Pledge Is Not A PR Slam Dunk

Apple yesterday pledged $2.5 billion toward creating affordable housing in California -- where, the company points out, working-class community members are increasingly having to leave their home towns because they can’t afford to stay. At the same time, homelessness has become a political cudgel in the state.

President Donald Trump said in September that “he cannot let California cities continue to ‘destroy themselves’ by failing to adequately address homelessness, as state and local officials look reluctantly to the federal government for help in combating the ongoing housing crisis within the nation’s most populated state,” as Fox News’ Danielle Wallace reports.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders “slammed” Apple’s multi-pronged plan yesterday, saying it's “an effort to distract from the fact that [Apple] has helped create California’s housing crisis -- all while raking in $800 million of taxpayer subsidies, and keeping a quarter trillion dollars of profit offshore, in order to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes,” CNBC’s Kif Leswing writes.

Apple “said Monday it would invest $1 billion in an affordable housing investment fund that will help the state develop and build additional low- to moderate-income housing. Apple said it would invest another $1 billion to help more first-time home buyers with financing and down-payment assistance,” Patrick Thomas writes  for The Wall Street Journal

“The tech company will use $300 million worth of its land to develop affordable housing in San Jose, Calif., it said. An additional $200 million will go toward low-income housing in the Bay Area, Apple said. The commitment includes $150 million toward a low-income housing fund and a $50 million donation to the nonprofit Destination: Home,” Thomas adds.

Apple is late to offer its partial solution but “it’s the largest commitment of any of the Big Five in the tech industry, all of which have pledged various amounts of money toward helping build more affordable housing in and around the cities they operate near. The only major U.S. tech company who has yet to pledge a significant amount of money toward the issue is Amazon, although Amazon did donate $8 million over the summer to nonprofits that provide housing for the homeless,” Nick Statt writes  for The Verge.

“The money comes at a time when the tech industry is having a huge image problem. Facebook and Google have become so powerful that there have been calls to regulate them more and even break them up. There’s heightened scrutiny over the negative influence they’ve had on elections, and even society more broadly. Donations like these are good PR. But Amie Fishman of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California says these companies and their employees are also feeling the impact of the housing crisis around them,” NPR’s Jim Zarroli says  on “All Things Considered.”

“It is unconscionable that so many people are sleeping in the streets every night. It is unconscionable that people are driving hours and hours to and from their jobs. We are living in an unsustainable environment,” Fishman tells Zarroli.

David Shulman, a senior economist with the Anderson Forecast at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Apple’s initiative is “a good step but might not make much difference if it’s just creating ‘cheap financing’ for development and down payment relief for people who earn enough to be able to buy a home in the expensive region,” the AP’s Matt O’Brien writes.

“In a statement Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company has a ‘profound civic responsibility’ to ensure that Silicon Valley remains a place where people can afford to live and work. The company has also said the housing crunch has affected its ability to recruit and retain employees in the area, particularly janitors, receptionists and other lower-wage workers,” Marie C. Baca writes  for The Washington Post.

“These efforts to promote affordable housing are laudable, but corporate initiatives alone are unlikely to solve California's housing crisis. The Golden State's fundamental housing problem is that state and local laws simply don’t allow developers to build enough housing to accommodate rising demand,” Timothy B. Lee writes for Ars Technica.  

But pushback -- “both from tenants’ rights groups worried that it would accelerate the process of gentrification and from neighborhood activists who simply don't want apartment buildings built near their single-family homes,” -- is strong, Lee reports. 

One wonders what another Lee, public relations pioneer Ivy, who crafted a philanthropic image for John D. Rockefeller, would advise to solve a housing crisis that everyone agrees is severe but is nonetheless utterly divisive. 

Next story loading loading..