A Microsoft official met with local business owners on Wednesday and outlined the tech giant’s plans and criteria for projects related to the $500 million affordable housing commitment it has put out in an attempt to curb the homelessness crisis.
Microsoft will open applications for funding next week for projects related to affordable housing on the Eastside that meet a criteria detailed at a Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA) breakfast on May 29. Jane Broom, Microsoft Philanthropies senior director, gave some of the first details about how specifically the company will disperse the funding it announced in January.
Broom specified that Bellevue projects must have at least 100 units; dedicate at least 40 percent of the units dedicated to middle-income families or 80 percent of the units to low-income families; the projects must be within a 60-minute commute of Bellevue during peak traffic hours; and developers must commit to maintaining affordable prices long-term, at least 10 years.
Projects will also be considered based on diversity within the housing and the surrounding area along with what amenities are included.
“Ideally, [the projects] will have daycare on the ground level or some form of health care,” Broom said. “We want to build a walkable place people want to live at.”
The information was clarified during a panel discussion at the BDA breakfast with Broom, Charlie Davis, partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, and former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who now serves as CEO of Challenge Seattle and detailed the affordable housing crisis earlier that morning.
The $500 million commitment will fund projects that create and preserve affordable housing in the Puget Sound region in an attempt to curb the housing crisis. The funds are split to provide about $225 million to subsidize middle income housing in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton and Sammamish while another $250 million will go toward low-income housing across King County.
Despite the immediate goal of improving affordable housing options throughout the region, Microsoft’s primary goal aims to eliminate some of the risk around affordable housing projects while creating a precedent for future investors to follow.
“Our biggest goal will be, can we create replicable products that other investors can use [to] make a little bit of money? We can get the markets to work a little better [and] essentially take away some of that risk of investing.” Broom said. “That is ultimately what our goal is with this portfolio.”
Broom, Davis and Gregoire highlighted that while Microsoft makes this effort to solve part of the affordable housing crisis, local business owners can also look at how to invest in the problem.
“There is something everybody can contribute to this work, the thing we’re looking for is creativity,” Broom said. “So that means nonprofit sitting at table with for profit and seeing how they can improve [and] work together to provide funding and tools that will incentivize and provide comfort to people looking to make a change.”
“It doesn’t have to be $500 million,” Davis added. “Think through what it is you individually can contribute proportionally.”
“Failure is not an option,” Gregoire concluded. “We have got to come together and embrace bold new kinds of ideas, take risks and succeed where everyone else has failed.”