Google's $1 billion housing plan draws skeptics

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- Google employees and community members gathered at the company's Sunnyvale campus Wednesday morning to protest outside the annual Alphabet shareholders' meeting.

"We've seen time and time again that Google continues to put profits over people," said a Google employee who did not want to be identified out of fear of retaliation.

The rally came after Google announced a $1 billion housing investment plan that has drawn praise from business advocacy groups, but was met with skepticism from some.

"Google shouldn't portray this as something they're doing out of the goodness of their hearts," said another unidentified Google employee. "They're doing it because the community spoke out."

The $1 billion plan is broken down into two parts. First, Google plans to set aside $750 million worth of company-owned land for housing development over the next 10 years.

The company's CEO, Sundar Pichai, estimates up to 15,000 homes could be built. However, the exact number is debatable, because Google hasn't provided specifics on how the homes will be constructed. This portion of the plan is also contingent on local municipalities agreeing to convert commercial and industrial land into residential, which could be a hard sell.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was encouraged by Google's pledge, but says cities in the South Bay will need to work together in order to reap the benefits.

"Cities tend to lose money with residential development in the long run," said Liccardo. "If everyone is simply playing a game of protecting their own treasury, we won't get the housing built and really that's what we've seen historically for the last several decades in many of our smaller suburbs."

Google says it will also establish a $250 million fund to provide developer incentives to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units locally.

"They're being sincere in their efforts," said a third Google employee who did not want to be identified. "I don't think they understand the measure that they really need to put forward to actually have effective change."

Google has already received approval from Mountain View to re-zone a portion of its property in the North Bayshore area to residential. Company officials are also in talks with San Jose and Sunnyvale.

The company hopes to start construction in the immediate futures and hopes for the homes to be available in the next few years.
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