When the Menlo Park City Council approved Facebook's campus expansion in 2016, it required the company to help address some of the challenges associated with its presence in the city, such as the impact on housing costs.
One provision of these required mitigations was that the corporation would pay about $430,000 annually to help subsidize housing for 22 teachers as part of a five-year pilot program, with priority given to teachers who work in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.
Checking in on the program, it appears that access to affordable housing has made a significant difference in the quality of life for these teachers.
According to Facebook Strategic Initiatives Manager Maya Perkins, "Programs like this allow teachers to live close to where they work. (They) mean that teachers are able to spend more time in the communities that they teach in."
The program helps with teacher retention, said Perkins. "For teachers themselves, it means more time with their own families and more time for them to do the things that are important for them," she said. That could include going back to school, pursuing hobbies or just having time for some self-care to be refreshed for a challenging job, she said.
Emily Laurance is a third and fourth grade teacher who comes from a family of educators: Her father is principal of Beechwood School in Belle Haven, and other relatives of hers are teachers as well.
She just completed her first full year of teaching at Beechwood, and is housed in one of the apartments Facebook is subsidizing. She said she believes that the program has helped her focus on her teaching.
"I feel pretty fortunate to have been able to be part of this lottery system," Laurance said.
Without subsidized housing, she said, and without the opportunity she had to live with her parents for a while to save up money for the rent she is paying now, "I couldn't be here and teach in this wonderful school I love. ... I would go as far as to say I would have to be in a different state."
While she said that there's a long way to go to solve the housing crisis, this program seems to be working on a small scale.
"When it comes down to it," she said, "when teachers can feel good, healthy, happy and renewed every day because of where they live, it is a positive thing."
Perkins said that the program has been costing about $1 million a year, up from the anticipated $430,000.
Facebook is also funding a relatively new effort by the Housing Industry Foundation to help lower-income renters save money, according to foundation Program Manager Inas Atawneh. The corporation's grant helped with the administrative part of the program, which launched in the fall of 2018.
The program matches income-qualified candidates for below-market-rate housing support with units and apartment owners in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. The effort so far is aimed at providing this support on a 12-month basis. To be eligible, candidates should earn between 50% and 80% of the area median income, or between $80,600 and $129,150 for a family of four under San Mateo County's requirements.
The program is different from federal housing assistance because it can be more flexible with supporting people at different income levels, Atawneh said.
So far, the program has placed about 15 applicants in the two counties, and has the potential to include about 45 households. It is privately funded and enables participating households to save roughly $700 to $1,400 a month, or up to $8,000 to $15,000 a year. Email Atawneh at email@example.com for more information.