Facebook to tackle Silicon Valley housing crisis with regeneration plan

The social media company plans to build new retail and office space, and 1,500 apartments as part of a new campus development, but has admitted that only 15% of the housing will be below the market rate.

Social media giant Facebook has submitted plans to redevelop a former science and technology park in California’s Silicon Valley to combat skyrocketing rents in the area.

Working with local government, community organisations and architectural practice OMA, Facebook will look to build a “neighbourhood centre” comprising housing, retail and office space close to its global headquarters in Menlo Park, San Francisco.

Based on the site of the former Menlo Science & Technology Park, Willow Campus will include 1,500 apartments, offices and 11,600m2 of retail space, including a grocery store and pharmacy.

The idea behind the campus is to build on Facebook’s efforts to tackle Silicon Valley’s ongoing housing crisis, which include establishing the Catalyst Housing Fund for affordable housing and making an initial investment of $18.5 million (£14.4 million) towards the scheme.

“The region’s failure to continue to invest in our transportation infrastructure, alongside growth has led to congestion and delay,” says Facebook vice president of global facilities and real estate, John Tenanes. “Our hope is to create a physical space that supports our community and builds on our existing programmes.”

“Peninsula cities have a housing crisis”

However, Tenanes acknowledges that only 15% of the housing built will cost less than the market rate, which is the usual price for a home in the area.

The average monthly rent for a two bed apartment in Menlo Park has more than tripled from $950 (£740) to $3,349 (£2,600) since 2011 when Facebook announced it would move to the area, according to property data site Rent Jungle.

The company says it is also investing “tens of millions of dollars” to improve the US101 highway, which runs from Menlo Park to San Francisco.

Menlo Park mayor Kirsten Keith tweeted her support for Facebook’s proposal, saying: “Peninsula cities have a housing crisis. I hope more tech companies come forward with affordable housing proposals as Facebook has done.”

The review process for Facebook’s proposal is expected to run for the next two years, and the first phase of the campus’ construction will be completed in early 2021.

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