Facebook will spend $20 million to expand affordable housing and protect low-income residents from displacement in communities surrounding its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, the company said Friday.
The work will be done in partnership with the Cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park and several local nonprofits, including Youth United for Community Action, Faith in Action Bay Area, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and Comité de Vecinos del Lado Oeste, in East Palo Alto.
The bulk of the money, $18.5 million, will be used to create the Catalyst Housing Fund. Its mission is to find new and scalable ways to increase the volume of affordable housing. A quarter of a million dollars will go to Rebuilding Together Peninsula, a nonprofit that renovates and repairs the homes of low-income, vulnerable homeowners including seniors, disabled people, and veterans.
The pledge also includes $625,000 for job training in science, technology, engineering, and technology and $500,000 for legal support for those facing displacement or eviction.
The company had already pledged $7.8 million for affordable housing as part of a deal with Menlo Park to expand its office park in the city.
In a statement on Facebook’s website, Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy and communications, called affordable housing one of the region’s most urgent issues. He called the $20 million an initial contribution and said the company hopes to "attract more contributions and partners — including community groups, philanthropies, and companies — over the next few months and years to grow our regional impact."
Facebook recorded a profit of $2.3 billion in its third quarter. The company is currently valued at $323.5 billion.
The pledge comes amid years of climbing housing prices in the region, driven in part by the high salaries doled out by major employers like Facebook and by a lack of housing supply. The average one-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County, home to Facebook, rents for about $2,200.
Silicon Valley companies and their employees have been criticized for driving up the cost of living and making life hard on middle- and low-income residents. Some nonprofits have also been squeezed out of the communities they serve by soaring rents.
And some nonprofit leaders say that area’s foundations and individual philanthropists have turned a blind eye to local needs. A study published earlier this year found that only 7 percent of giving by private foundations in Silicon Valley went to local nonprofits in 2013.