Google invests $28 million in affordable housing

The search giant will build 240 units in Boston's Allston neighborhood, in one of the largest low-income housing developments in the U.S.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
A view of Charlesview Apartments in Allston.
A view of Charlesview Apartments in Allston. Peabody Properties

Google has the search, mobile, and advertising markets covered. Now it's branching out once again, this time into low-income housing developments.

The Boston Globe reported today that Google has invested $28 million to build 240 housing units at the Charlesview Residences in Allston, a Boston neighborhood. According to the Globe, the Charlesview is one of the country's largest low-income housing developments. Charlesview currently has 213 "one to four bedroom homes," the property's owner, Peabody Properties, says on the complex's Web site.

Speaking to the Globe in an interview, Axel Martinez, Google's assistant treasurer, said that the search giant's decision to invest in the units has to do with its desire to help the community--and receive financial benefit.

"We want to be responsible corporate citizens, and that's what drove us to invest, but the returns are also quite good considering the risk," Martinez told the Globe. "Charlesview is one of the places where we were able to add value, when in the past projects like that wouldn't have gotten done."

This isn't the first time that Google has turned to low-income housing developments to invest its cash. In January, The New York Times reported that Google invested an undisclosed sum in the Melbourne Apartments complex in Des Moines, Iowa. Those apartments are offered for $775 a month, but are restricted to low-income earners. According to the Times, a family of five cannot make more than $47,460 a year to qualify to live in the apartments.

Although it might seem rather odd that Google would want to invest so much cash in real estate, one of the key drivers for doing so is to reduce its corporate tax liability. Each year, the U.S. government gives out billions of dollars in low-income tax credits to investors that put up the funds to build living space. So the more a company invests in the low-income housing, the more tax credits available to it.

As the Globe points out, Google isn't the only company to invest in housing to reduce its tax liability. In Massachusetts alone, a host of companies, including Sherwin-Williams and Berkshire Hathaway, have also invested in low-income housing. On the tech side, Apple has offered up some cash for investment, as well.

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.