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Facebook commits $1B to address housing issues

The social media giant says it wants to help California.

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Facebook has pledged $1 billion to help California's affordable-housing crisis.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook unveiled on Tuesday a $1 billion pledge to help resolve California's affordable housing crisis over the next decade, a commitment that comes as tech companies get blamed for contributing to the state's rising rents. In a blog post, Facebook CFO David Wehner said the social media giant would partner with the state to provide more low- and mixed-income housing. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the pledge, saying the state needed help from the private sector to address the pressing issue.

"Access to more affordable housing for all families is key to addressing economic inequality and restoring social mobility," Newsom said. "State government cannot solve housing affordability alone -- we need others to join Facebook in stepping up."

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Facebook's promise comes as tech giants face criticism for contributing to higher rents, particularly in the Bay Area. A spate of tech IPOs has brought cash to the region, contributing to higher prices. Current and former Uber employees raked in so much money when the ride-hailing giant went public that they could buy every home for sale in San Francisco and neighboring Berkeley and Oakland, according to one study.

The social media giant is also fending off criticism of its practices, including the controversial policy of allowing politicians to lie in ads. Facebook, which is being investigated by 47 state attorneys general for potential antitrust violations, also continues to reel from concerns it isn't protecting user privacy, an issue that's already led to an unprecedented $5 billion fine. Critics, including Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, have called for the company to be broken up

The social network isn't the first tech company to commit to easing the housing problem in California. In June, Google pledged $1 billion to help build 20,000 homes over the next decade.

A quarter of Facebook's pledge will go to a partnership with the State of California to create mixed-income housing on excess state-owned land. Another $150 million will go toward building affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Facebook is headquartered, including for the homeless. The company earmarked $225 million to build 1,500 mixed-income units on land already owned by Facebook in Menlo Park that's been zoned for housing. The company also pledged $25 million for housing for teachers, first responders and nurses in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. A further $350 million will be devoted to ensuring the success of the projects.

Originally published Oct. 22, 1:50 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:17 p.m.: Adds background.