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Microsoft dives into affordable housing, says Puget Sound needs 300,000 units to meet demand

KING COUNTY - Tech companies have been blamed for raising the cost of living in our region, but on Thursday Microsoft vowed to be a part of the solution. The company announced they will be investing nearly half a billion dollars to create affordable units across Puget Sound.

Local leaders say it’s an unprecedented move for a private company.

“We are delighted to put $500 million towards new solutions,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said.

The problem is a lack of affordable housing, and Microsoft just dived into an issue local politicians have been unable to solve in Puget Sound.

“Jobs came to our region but we did not build housing,” Smith said.

Smith says the people who play a vital role in our communities like teachers, nurses and police officers can no longer afford to live where they work.

“We basically face an affordable housing gap of around 300,000 units,” Smith said.

That’s new data coming from Microsoft’s own team formed last summer to research the crisis the region is facing.

“We partnered with Zillow, that was just absolutely terrific; they allowed us to access data the public didn’t have,” Smith said.

Numbers and graphics that breaks down location, income and occupation.

“What you see in 2014, a median income housing started to become unaffordable for registered nurses,” Smith said.

Smith says that’s a trend for every occupation and increasingly every single city.

About half of the $500 million will go to help low income families access affordable units in places like Kent, Federal Way and Auburn.

About $225 million will incentivize construction of more middle-class homes on the Eastside. Places like Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland and Sammamish, where it’s very expensive to live.

“It will be more focused on the Eastside given some of the issues we have seen, but ultimately across the region,” Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft Amy Hood said.

Hood also says they will partner with King County Housing Authority. KCHA currently helps 55,000 people with rental housing and other services. The organization says it’s too early to know how much they will receive but on Thursday the organization said they are excited about the new venture.

Also in a letter, nine different mayors outside of Seattle signed a declaration promising to bring down roadblocks in the way of affordable homes.

“We will bring our resources whether it’s property that can be made available, streamline permitting or smarter zoning or incentives to generate development,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.

Because many say a half a billion-dollar investment from a private company is both unprecedented and historic.

“It’s an incredibly surprising development in a way for a corporation to do something like this of this magnitude,” King County Council Member Claudia Balducci said.

Microsoft says it’s unclear at this time how many affordable units will be built.

$25 million of the $500 million will go towards fighting homelessness.

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