As Silicon Valley’s astronomical rents continue to rise, Facebook has submitted plans to the local council to build its own “village” of 1,500 homes for workers, in Menlo Park near its California headquarters. The village, called Willow Campus, will also include shops and a public plaza, located across the street from the social networking giant’s global headquarters. The company has said it was forced to build the development because of the regional government’s failure to invest in infrastructure, leading to soaring rents and hours long commutes.
According to Facebook’s vice-president for global facilities, John Tenanes:
“Our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much-needed services, housing and transit solutions as well as office space. Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services. The region’s failure to continue to invest in our transportation infrastructure alongside growth has led to congestion and delay.”
Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith embraced the plan.
“Peninsula cities have a housing crisis,” Keith tweeted. “I hope more tech companies come forward with affordable housing proposals as Facebook has done,” she said.
The crisis has followed the growth of west-coast technology companies, such as Facebook. Apple, Google, Netflix, and other tech companies are also headquartered in the area. Over 640,000 jobs have been created in San Francisco Bay Area since 2010, but housing supply has failed to meet the demand. Average monthly rent in Menlo Park has tripled since 2011, when Facebook said it planned to move to the city. Average rents have now reached $3,349 dollar a month, according to Rent Jungle, a property data website. For houses, median prices have risen from $535,000 in 2012 to $888,000 last year.
However, just 15 percent of Willow Campus’s homes will be offered below market rates.
Over 9,000 employees work at the Facebook offices in Menlo Park, according to city data. A larger campus is expected to open, bringing even more workers to the city. The number of employees has increased 54 percent over the past year.
The arrival of tech workers in the area has forced workers such as teachers and support staff to make long commutes through the area’s gridlocked, rush-hour traffic, from lower priced areas nearby.
Last year, the San Francisco board of supervisors declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness in the city. City supervisor David Campos emphasized, “It is not a natural disaster, it is man-made. But it’s a disaster nevertheless.”