How Mark Zuckerberg Might Attack The Affordable Housing Crisis


Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Last year, when Mark Zuckerberg launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability company that he and his wife, Pricilla Chan, founded, they announced that their goal was to solve social issues with a startup-like mentality. The company, which will be funded by the bulk of Zuckerberg’s own Facebook shares, an estimated $45 billion, said it would focus on long-term bets to reshape the world. Their motto is "Advancing Human Potential and Promoting Equality." They kicked off by leading a $24 million funding round for Andela, a group that trains elite software developers in Africa to match with top companies around the world.

That's why it came as some surprise when The Information reported that Zuckerberg had met with several housing experts to learn more about the country’s affordable housing crisis. It does make some sense as it’s an issue that—in the Bay Area at least—Silicon Valley tech companies have helped create, so much so that Facebook recently set aside a section of their latest corporate housing development in Menlo Park to absorb residents being displaced by tech workers with hearty salaries.

But it's also far broader. Most Americans are worried about being able to pay for decent housing, according to a recent MacArthur Foundation report. While the exact point at which shelter cost becomes a life burden has been debated—it’s generally accepted that if you’re shelling out more than 30% of your income on rent or mortgage you’re going to have trouble affording things like food, clothes, and medicine. But an estimated 12 million Americans now spend at least half of what they make on that.

Zuckerberg and Chan haven’t announced a plan to solve this. So we spoke to several housing experts to see what a tech-savvy billionaire might consider to attack the housing problem.

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