$500 million Microsoft housing investment can help get the ball rolling

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced it’d be pouring a massive sum to clear the way for housing in King County: $500 million to address the area’s affordable housing shortage, largely focusing on middle-income housing and low-income housing, with a smaller investment in homelessness services.

“Median income in the region hasn’t kept pace with rising housing costs, increasingly making it impossible for lower- and middle-income workers to afford to live close to where they work,” said CEO Brad Smith and CFO Amy Hood in a blog post announcing the investment. “Teachers, nurses, first responders and many in key roles at nonprofits, businesses and tech companies now begin and end their workdays with long commutes. And people who are homeless face problems that are even more daunting.”

The announcement comes seven months after an effort to tax Seattle’s biggest businesses for housing and homelessness services crashed and burned. Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, wasn’t the target of the so-called “head tax,” but the situation prompted a discussion between Microsoft and business-led advocacy group Challenge Seattle.

$500 million is a massive chunk of money—and spread out over several projects, it can absolutely boost construction and jump-start new affordable housing programs.

“Making this magnitude of an investment in housing, it helps a lot,” said Claudia Balducci, who represents the Eastside on the King County Council, told us on Thursday, adding that it encourages the region to “up our game.”

“I am super happy to have it and it’s going to help with especially capital investments ,which are these very important one-time infrastructure investments,” added Balducci.

But housing is expensive, especially when coupled with services. If that $500 million were poured into one project, the Seattle Times pointed out, it would only create about 1,000 housing units—even without the wraparound services sometimes necessary in low-income housing.

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