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Google pledges $1 billion toward Bay Area housing crisis

The vow comes as Google and other tech companies have been criticized for driving up rents in the area.

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As Google expands, it's pledging $1 billion toward Bay Area housing.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google says it wants to ease the housing problem in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the tech giant has been headquartered for the past two decades. The search giant on Tuesday said it's pledging $1 billion to help build a total of 20,000 homes in the region over the next 10 years.

The allocation comes as Google and other tech giants face criticism for contributing to higher rents in the Bay Area. Google, which was founded in Mountain View, California, 20 years ago, has also been aggressively expanding in the area. The company has major real estate developments underway in nearby San Francisco, San Jose and Sunnyvale.

"Across the region, one issue stands out as particularly urgent and complex: housing," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post. "The lack of new supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for longtime middle- and low-income residents."

Google said it'll repurpose $750 million worth of its land, which is currently zoned for commercial and office space, to build 15,000 residential homes. That will include housing for mid- and lower-income people, the company said. Google will also create a $250 million investment fund that provides incentives to real estate developers for building 5,000 affordable homes in the region. Google said it wants housing construction to begin immediately.

Google is also facing intense scrutiny more broadly as a company, so a pledge to help ease the housing crisis could also be an attempt to help improve public sentiment. In the past few years, Google has been accused of censorship, helping to distribute disinformation and not taking a strong enough stance against sexual harassment in the workplace.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom welcomed Google's vow to help with housing.

"Google recognizes that it has an important role to play in addressing California's cost crisis," Newsom said in a statement. "I hope today's announcement inspires other companies -- big and small -- to make similar direct investments in housing affordability throughout our state."