Facebook gifts $25M to Santa Clara County for teacher housing

Facebook is gifting $25 million to Santa Clara County for the county to use on new teacher and school staff homes.

The county announced Thursday that Facebook will give the money for the county to build affordable housing for local school districts' teachers and staff at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto, a county-owned property.

"This is an exceptional gift by Facebook. It helps our teachers. It helps our schools. And it helps our communities. From the beginning, Facebook 'got it'...the importance of affordable teacher housing in the communities where teachers teach," Joe Simitian, president of the county's Board of Supervisors, said in a statement.

The money will lead to between 90 and 120 homes for teachers and staff in schools districts in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Los Altos. 

Simitian added, "No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. It's hard to attract and retain the best teachers available. Time in the car is time not spent with students or preparing lesson plans.

"And our teachers become more and more remote from the communities where they teach. This was already a challenge years ago when I was on the school board, and it's only gotten worse with every passing year. I don't think we have to accept this as inevitable. With a little creativity and collaboration, we can make progress," he said, adding that the county "can do more and more and more."

The county in January 2018 designated the 1.5-acre Grant Ave. lot for teacher housing, and then in April of the same year allocated $6 million to fund the project. 

The Palo Alto City Council then committed $3 million for the project in June 2018.

The county in August 2019 began negotiating with Mercy Housing and Abode Communities to build the housing.

Facebook now, after launching its own Teach Housing Program in 2017, which provided 22 homes to Ravenswood City School District teachers, joined the county's teacher housing effort. 

"We're excited to deepen our commitment to housing for people across the economic spectrum. We launched our teacher housing program in Menlo Park in 2017 and now we're excited to join Santa Clara County, the city of Palo Alto, and local school districts in this partnership," John Tenanes, Facebook's vice president for real estate, said in a statement.