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Microsoft pledging $500 million for affordable housing in Seattle area

SEATTLE -- Microsoft pledged $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing in response to the Seattle region's widening affordability gap.

Most of the money will be aimed at increasing housing options in the Puget Sound region for low- and middle-income workers at a time when they're being priced out of Seattle and some of its suburbs, and when the vast majority of new buildings target wealthier renters, said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

The pledge is the largest in the company's 44-year history, and, according to the company, is one of the heftiest contributions by a private corporation to housing, The Seattle Times reported . In comparison, the amount dwarfs the $100 million in annual funding for Washington state's Housing Trust Fund.

A Wednesday statement from the company reads, in part:

Technology and other industries have brought jobs, people and greater prosperity to Greater Seattle, but they’ve also increased the need for more housing for people to live. Unfortunately, the region’s housing has not kept pace with this growth.

Most of the funds will be invested over the next three years, the company said.

It's unclear how much housing Microsoft's pledge will produce. According to the Seattle Times, Microsoft President Brad Smith hopes the fund will create "tens of thousands of units."

"An important step for Microsoft that we hope will help the entire region," Smith said on Twitter Wednesday.

The initiative comes as Microsoft and other tech giants that have driven the region's economic boom face increasing pressure to help mitigate affordable-housing shortages. Microsoft is coupling its contributions with a call for other companies to step up, and for Seattle's Eastside suburbs to facilitate more housing.

Microsoft will loan $225 million at below-market interest rates to help developers facing high land and construction costs build and preserve "workforce housing" on the Eastside, where the company has 50,000 workers and is planning for more. The developments will be aimed at households making between $62,000 and $124,000 per year.

Another $250 million will go toward market-rate loans for construction of affordable housing across the Puget Sound region for people making up to 60 percent of the local median income ($48,150 for a two-person household).

More details on the initiative are expected during a press conference Thursday morning in Bellevue.

Microsoft is based in the Seattle suburb of Redmond.

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