Nonprofit seeks developers to take first bites of Apple’s $2.5B housing commitment
Apple CEO Tim Cook talks with California Governor Gavin Newsom. Image courtesy of Apple Inc.

Nearly four months to the day after Apple Inc. promised $2.5 billion to spur housing and address homelessness in the Bay Area, the first $150 million of that commitment is up for grabs by developers.

Cupertino-based Apple in November granted San Jose-based nonprofit Housing Trust Silicon Valley the $150 million to use for low-interest loans for hard-to-fund affordable housing developments. Now the Housing Trust is looking for proposals from developers that are missing a critical piece of funding, but could otherwise start construction on their affordable housing project by the end of next year.

“This is exactly what we mean when we talk about creating bolder measures and greater equity in the region,” Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley, said in a statement. “This grant creates opportunities to do what couldn’t be done otherwise, and we’re excited by the impact this fund will have.”

The request for proposals comes after Apple last year announced the region’s largest voluntary housing commitment by a private company in the region, more than double the size of earlier commitments by Google and Facebook, which each promised $1 billion in funding and land value to help tackle the housing crisis.

“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride,” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said in a statement last November. “When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Apple’s $2.5 billion includes $300 million worth of land in San Jose the company says it’ll make available for new homes, despite the fact that housing isn’t currently allowed to rise on it’s land in the city. The commitment also includes $50 million to Destination: Home to tackle homelessness in the region, $1 billion to help first-time homeowners and another $1 billion to invest in very low- to moderate-income housing.

But that $1 billion housing investment fund — which will function as an “open line of credit” to the state and others to build new affordable housing — is separate from the program Apple has set up with the Housing Trust.

At the Housing Trust, the funds being offered will go to qualifying developers and projects as loans, charging 2 percent a year for the next two decades.

Proposals for the funding are due March 26. Final decisions about which projects get the funding will be made by early June.

But the program comes with a list of requirements to qualify. For instance, developers who apply don’t have to be nonprofits, but they must be “mission-aligned” when it comes to building affordable housing with a proven track record of similar types of projects.

At least 75 percent of the units in a project must be considered affordable for the next 20 years and the development must be located within half a mile of a transit line to qualify.

One of the nice-to-haves is “innovative construction methods,” including modular for prefabricated homes, according to the request for proposals published Monday.

“This Fund will inspire innovative solutions from around the Bay Area, and we can’t wait to see the solutions our affordable housing industry proposes moving forward,” Amie Fishman, executive director of Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, said in a statement.

Apple, one of the richest companies in the world, recently finished construction on a nearly 3 million-square-foot campus in its longtime hometown of Cupertino. As a company, it has long pushed back on the concept of offering new community benefits outside of paying its sizable tax bill.

But it seems that attitude may be changing now, as some of the first bits of Apple’s housing commitment are set to be deployed in the coming year.

“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” Cook said in a statement last year.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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