Silicon Valley tech companies donate $20 million for low-income housing

On what’s become known as 'Giving Tuesday,' one South Bay non-profit is seeing its coffers increase by $20M. The money will be used to help build much-needed low-income housing.

For the past decade, Mountain View-based Pure Storage has made its mark providing data storage. Now, the Silicon Valley tech company wants to make a name in the field of philanthropy.

“Giving Tuesday! Isn’t this a really fun way to having a giving Tuesday?,” said Nicole Johnson, the executive director of the Pure Storage Foundation.

She said Pure Storage, along with tech titans LinkedIn and Cisco are donating a combined $20M as seed money for low income housing construction.. Cisco’s $10M check was handed over, coincidentally, on “Giving Tuesday.”

“I think it’s a reflection of our commitment to affordable housing,” said Erin Connor of Cisco. Added Katie Ferrick of LinkedIn, “It’s really about economic opportunity, and making sure that we provide equitable access to opportunity for all members of this community. Whether they’re employees of any company, or anywhere.” Johnson said the Pure Storage footprint is smaller, but, “…For us we know the five million is enough to make a significant difference.”

The money is on loan to the Housing Trust Silicon Valley. That non-profit uses a year-old “Tech Trust Fund” to invest with small developers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to compete in the housing construction industry..

“We have a pipeline of deals with these borrowers, and we’re gonna be able to put it to use fairly quickly,” said Julie Mahowald, chief financial officer of Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

So far, 15 residential projects have been launched in the Silicon Valley, equaling about 1,500 affordable homes. Some critics applaud this effort, but counter there’s a more immediate need..

“What we need first, is we need new shelters and we need navigation centers. Because the immediate need is to get people off the street,” said South Bay housing advocate Shaunn Cartwright.

Mahowald countered the homeless have not been forgotten in the effort to ease the housing crisis.  “It helps the gamut. Including homeless. There’s a lot of these projects that are built for those exiting homelessness,” she said.

The tech companies expect to see their donations repaid over five years. That’s the same time frame over which the Housing Trust hopes to add five thousand new units of low income housing, and more tech donors.