Just a few hours before Google’s announcement, the National Low Income Housing Coalition put out a report that showed Bay Area counties account for five of the six most expensive places to live in the country. In Santa Clara County, which includes Mountain View, a worker would have to make $54.60 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
Despite its obvious and longstanding housing shortage, the state has struggled to find a political solution. Gavin Newsom, the new governor, campaigned on an audacious promise to push policies that would lead to the construction of 3.5 million new homes by 2025 — California is on a pace to build about one million — but nothing that has happened in the Legislature suggests that goal will be even close to met.
Scott Wiener, a Democratic state senator from San Francisco, has proposed a bill each of the past two years that would force cities to allow more dense housing near transit stops. His efforts have been met with fierce opposition from suburban homeowners who consider low-density living sacrosanct, and has yet to move his bills beyond legislative committees.
Lenny Siegel, a former city councilman in Mountain View, said Google’s pledge to repurpose the land was especially important given the shortage of land for new residential property in the area.
He praised Google for its actions, but said the imbalance between new jobs and homes meant that unless Google stops hiring, the housing shortages would not be resolved.
Alphabet, its parent company, has continued to hire aggressively. It had 98,771 employees at the end of 2018, compared with 80,110 a year earlier.
“As long as Google keeps hiring, we won’t solve our housing crisis. We’ll just keep it from getting worse,” Mr. Siegel said. “In most parts of the country, they don’t blame job creators for housing costs, but they do here.”