Recently, Facebook announced that it was building a housing community in Menlo Park to offset Silicon Valley’s bone-dry supply of housing. While commendable, it’s not likely this will do much to offset the problem — it’ll just make Facebook feel better about having done something.
The proposed village will have 1,500 housing units, 1.75 million square feet of office space, and 125,000 square feet of retail space. It wouldn’t be restricted to Facebook employees, though I’m presuming they’d have right of first refusal.
John Tenanes, Facebook’s vice-president for global facilities, wasn’t shy about criticizing San Francisco’s officials when he spoke of the company’s motivations for building the community:
Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services. The region’s failure to continue to invest in our transportation infrastructure alongside growth has led to congestion and delay.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely this will make a dent in the demand for low-cost housing because, as pointed out by Reuters, only 15-percent of the housing Facebook plans to build will be below market value.
Not to mention that 1,500 houses will be a tiny drop in a very large bucket. California Senator Scott Wiener said in a Medium post earlier this year the whole state would need to produce around 180,000 new houses a year just to keep up, a figure it hasn’t even come close to meeting.
It’s nice that Facebook is trying, and I’ll be glad if this means even one person doesn’t end up on the streets, but it doesn’t actually address the bigger issue.