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Apple offers $150 million to affordable housing developers

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But in the current housing environment, that figure only builds a few hundred homes

A huge, ring-shaped building, as seen from the air, with many smaller buildings stretched out below the perspective of the photograph.
Apple Park in Cupertino, a Silicon Valley town in dire need of new housing.
Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Apple is ready to build affordable housing in the Bay Area and has nine figures on tap to get the job done—all it needs now are developers to come take a bite of the offer.

The Cupertino-based computing giant announced Monday that it’s launching a $150 million housing fund—dubbed the Apple Affordable Housing Fund, no points for guessing the name in advance—a sliver of the big-ticket housing plan that it announced last year.

The actual sum is a tiny portion of the $2.5 billion the company says it will dedicate to housing development in the future—most of the planned housing grant money ($1.15 billion worth, with the rest of the budget going toward things like mortgage assistance and homeless relief) will be directed toward state-sponsored programs.

This fund is the only part of the housing plan that goes directly into private housing development, with money dispersed via the nonprofit Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

Apple is now prompting developers to submit projects to qualify for grants, with a March 26 deadline already looming.

The application calls for “proposals that are all but ready to proceed” and housing aimed at residents making up to 120 percent of the region’s median income—the high end of that spectrum meant to bail out middle-income earners who can’t quite afford market-rate homes but often get overlooked for housing assistance.

The company’s stated goal is to get new housing “shovel-ready by 2021.”

Depending on the project, Apple’s $150 million may not go all that far in the harsh environment of the Bay Area’s construction market. Depending on the estimate, a single unit of housing can cost between $500,000 and $1 million to develop in San Francisco.

Developers can net lower prices elsewhere, but not much; the Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimates that in 2019, a unit of below-market-rate housing cost less than half a million dollars in only one Bay Area county: Sonoma County, where the price was just over $497,000.

In five other counties prices ranged from well over $600,000 all the way up to around $737,000 per home in SF. The average cost per home for the region was more than $664,000, although that data excludes Contra Costa, Marin, and Solano counties.

Of course, that’s presumably where the other $2 billion-plus comes into play, but Apple has not yet initiated parts of its plan that will tap into that monstrous sum.