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The question of $ 500M: What do residential builders think about Microsoft's plan?




Reactions from affordable housing suppliers and lawyers were largely positive.

"It's more than a little exciting," says Villette Nolon, CEO of Imagine Housing, the largest nonprofit housing vendor building-supported housing in Eastside cities. "I think this is going to change the conversation in the region … The Eastside has fallen far behind in labor and low-income housing and now has a higher demand than other parts of the county. It feels much more hidden here, but the need has increased exponentially over the past four years. "

Marty Kooistra, managing director of the housing development consortium, echoed that feeling in an email:" We are excited about the management Microsoft has demonstrated with this investment. all sectors that include a collaborative process that owns the reality that we all have a role to play. "

But there are some concerns in society

Nolon said she is still concerned about public procurement given how difficult many communities are struggling for to keep cities from allowing the construction of new affordable housing. "Unless you have the public policy and will of the community to help," she said, "there is always going to be an uphill battle."

Other Eastside argues that Microsoft's focus on housing for medium-sized residents could surpass shade the enormous and growing need for supportive homes that people traveling homeless can move into.

Linda Benson is the director of community development at Sophia Way, a non-profit Bellevue offering shelter, housing and services to homeless women. She said the number of women the organization has served has grown significantly in recent years. "Funding does not increase, but we serve many more women with greater needs," she said.

Benson wants to see significant investment in building permanently supportive homes for homeless residents, many of whom are struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Without the supportive home of people earning 0 to 30 percent of the area's median income, Benson says that the cycle of poverty and homelessness cannot be broken. "The reason we are where we are is 40 years of divestment in homes at all levels of government," she said. "But it's pretty cool to see that Microsoft has decided that it's good corporate policy for its shareholders [to make this pledge]."

The $ 500 million promise is undoubtedly huge ̵[ads1]1; it's the largest in the company's 44-year history – and Smith said he hopes it can be used to build thousands of homes over the coming years. But it's still only a fraction of the money needed to handle the region's housing crisis, a fact that helps put the scale of the problem into perspective.

Rental rates and house prices have risen as the region's population growth exceeds the construction of housing nearly 3 to 1. A recent report by Regional Affordable Housing Task Force – a joint effort between King County, cities in the Seattle region and others affordable homeowners – found that around 156,000 households in King County are charged, meaning they spend more than one-third of their rent or mortgage income.

To get that number to zero when the population continues to grow, the labor force estimates the county to build 244,000 new homes by 2040, of which at least 88,000 will have to be rented or sold below market rates. Microsoft's own research found that the estimate was low. It says the region needs 305,000 new units to meet demand.

There is widespread agreement among selected officials and housing experts that the region needs housing at affordable income levels, from the smallest income earners trying to leave the homelessness of middle-income people who cannot afford housing near their jobs. Microsoft focuses its efforts primarily on the latter category, which includes people such as teachers, nurses, and police officers.

"In some ways, there has been less focus on medium-sized homes [in the region] than on low-income housing," says Smith. "Many of those who play important roles in our communities can no longer afford to live in them." 19659002] Microsoft began working on the housing plan last summer after the wake of Seattle's unsuccessful attempts to impose taxes on large corporations to pay for homes and homeless services.The company collaborated with Zillow, national, affordable home manufacturers, Enterprise Community Partners and Boston Consulting Group to analyze regional housing data and look at best practice solutions from across the country.

Many details are still being decided on Microsoft's new fund.

What we know is that $ 225 million in low-interest loans will go against construction of middle-income homes in the suburbs east of Seattle and $ 250 million in market-rate loans will be used to build low-income housing across the Seattle region. Tea tech giant will also provide $ 25 million in philanthropic grants to address homelessness.

$ 225 million in middle-income home loans will go towards housing construction for families earning $ 62,000 to $ 124,000 a year, which is about 60-120 percent of today's area media revenue for families of four.

Enterprise Community Partners Senior Program Leader James Madden explained that in Washington there are very few options for subsidizing "workforce" housing for people who earn more than 80 percent of the area's median income, and that the high cost of land and construction make it difficult to build new, unsubsidised housing that people in that revenue ceiling can afford to rent or buy. If market developers can get funding for projects with significantly lower interest rates than private investors or banks will offer, as Microsoft suggests, they can afford to offer significantly lower rent than they could otherwise.

$ 250 million in market rate loans will go towards low-income housing for people earning 60 percent of the area's median income, currently about $ 49,000 for a two-person household. Smith said the company is planning to reinvest the repaid loans and profits from interest into more affordable home finance in the future.

The $ 25 million in grants will go towards homelessness and low income support. To start, $ 5 million will go towards Mariners recently announced Home Base initiative to help low-income residents avoid eviction and $ 5 million to Seattle and King County's joint efforts to address homelessness.

Microsoft is also pushing for political and governmental changes that mirror many of housing and homeless lawyer requests will see . They include doubling the government bond fund to $ 200 million, reforming the state law for liability, providing surplus public land at low or no cost to affordable home developers, giving thicker developments near transit, streamlining permit processes, and more. Mayors from Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Redmond, Renton and Sammamish signed a letter purchased by The Seattle Times commits to the local pieces of the broad policy package.

Kong County Council Member Claudia Balducci, co-chair of the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force, said: "I find it quite clear that [Microsoft’s plan] is a & # 39; and & # 39; not a & # 39; It's all additive. There's no end to history. We still need to focus on very, very low-income farmers and people who go out of homelessness … Local well-known is well aware that this is a part "But we need a lot more. I hope it will be a catalyst for allowing more market housing and publicly subsidized housing as well."

Microsoft's Smith said the main marker of success for their initiative would, of course, be the construction of new homes. But another "leading indicator" will be whether other companies follow their lead.

"We don't stand up for a moment and say that every other company should feel new commitment to match our donation," he said. "But if any company wants, we would be excited. We all have a role to play."



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