Side Note

Facebook HQ continues pricing people out of house and home

Wherever Mark Zuckerberg goes, housing woes follow. A San Francisco home he bought in 2014 notched complaints about pervasive construction and neighborhood cost increases. (He also bought several properties surrounding his intended location to ensure extra privacy.)

Now, a group of long-time residents of Menlo Park, California — where Facebook is headquartered — blame Zuckerberg’s company for pricing them out of their homes.

As The Guardian reported, tenants across four apartment buildings in Menlo Park are facing a $800 monthly rent hike because landlords are trying to cash in on their proximity to Facebook’s campus.

Just seven years after Facebook first moved into Menlo Park, housing prices in the city are soaring, and real estate companies like East Palo Alto Apartments and Menlo Gate LLC now boast their proximity to Facebook as they try to attract newer, higher-income tenants. Sandra Zamora, one of the Menlo Park residents facing a rent increase, told The Guardian, “Facebook is just ruining the community.”

The crisis is only poised to get worse. In March, Facebook executives announced that Menlo Park may soon be home to as many as 35,000 company employees, which is more than the total population of Menlo Park now. Because more Facebook workers brings more expensive housing, that could spell disaster for the current Menlo Park residents who haven’t already been forced out of the city.

Back in 2013, a group of 400 predominantly Latinx and low-income residents living in a R.V. park in Menlo Park, known as Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, were already almost compelled to leave so that developers could replace it with more expensive housing projects. Last year, the R.V. park was narrowly saved, but its near-closure is an unsettling sign going forward.

The risks are high. A 2017 Berkeley study concluded that in Mateo County, which incorporates Menlo Park and Silicon Valley, one in three people who were gentrified out of their homes “reported some period of homelessness or marginal housing, living in a motel, renting a garage or doubling up with family or friends in the two years following their displacement.”

And though Facebook has promised to spend $20 million creating 1,500 extra units of housing in Menlo Park, only 15 percent of those homes will offer rents at below-market rates, meaning the project won’t quell the tide of gentrification.

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