Facebook’s Affordable Housing Efforts: Not Enough

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First of all, kudos to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and team for recognizing the issues around affordable housing in the area of the technology boom. For more context, here is a statement that Mark published on his Facebook page.

Affordable housing is an important problem across the world. Our goal is to connect people everywhere, and that starts with being good neighbors in our local community.

For all the opportunity and jobs the technology industry has created, it has also made the Bay Area a less affordable place to live. We recognize our growth contributes to these challenges, and we’re committed to helping solve them so people can afford to live and work here.

Today we’re announcing a partnership with community groups and the governments of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to create more affordable housing, help more people stay in their homes, and offer job training. We’re committing $20 million to jump start this effort and to start bringing more people on board.

Affordable housing is a problem beyond the Bay Area too. We can’t fix it by ourselves, but if we figure out ideas that work here, then I hope we’ll be able to bring them to more cities and countries in the future.

I applaud that Facebook has taken the first step. However, I have doubts that the $20 million it is contributing toward affordable housing in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park is the answer. It is a perfect example of short-term thinking and trying to assuage your internal guilt with a check to charity.

Why do I say that? Because on a macro level, Facebook housing focuses on a demographic that is richer and younger than the rest of the population, and the ecosystem that evolves around it simply prices out the have-nots. It happens all the time, and frankly one can’t do much about it. It is either the very rich or the very poor who relocate to the places they can afford.

It would be great to know how much Facebook is doing to make it easy for its non-engineering and management staff to find housing in the area. I’m talking about the people who clean the place and are almost invisible in the company.

What is the plan for education and health care for people who can’t afford the prices that a FB salary enables? Will the company build subsidized schools and clinics? What efforts will the company make in order to alleviate the traffic flows that might result from this growth, and who is going to take on those costs?

I bet the taxes from these few hundred homes aren’t going to pay for the needs of the community. Health care, better education and equitable, higher-quality civic services have been the hallmark of all company towns throughout history. From Pittsburgh to Cleveland to part of industrial United Kingdom, local business giants have stepped up to take care of the “company people.”

Most important, the real question: Why not do this expansion in areas of the country where there is a desperate need for jobs? Even 500 new jobs in those places would lead to some economic activity. I understand the desire to have people next door, but as an employer there are many options for companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.

Silicon Valley has an empathy vacuum

The Washington Post shared research from the Brookings Institution, which highlights the economic disparity in the folks who voted for President Trump and former Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton.

According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America’s economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country’s economic activity last year.

This dovetails with my latest column for The New Yorker, Silicon Valley’s empathy vacuum. In this piece, I tie together a lot of strings – Donald Trump, Brexit, Fake News Problem, Facebook and growing economic disparities between those who supported President-elect and Secretary Clinton. The lens I view all of these through – empathy or rather lack of it. Hope you get a chance to read the whole piece.

Facebook, Fake News & Zuckerberg’s Response

Photo by @Om (http://om.co)

Mark Zuckerberg, after a heated debate (which even had US President Obama weighing in) on the issue of fake news and its role in modern politics and the future of democracy in our networked society, has broken his silence. In a message posted on Facebook, he listed a variety of measures Facebook is taking in order to fight the scourge of fake news. For about a week or so, Facebook and Zuckerberg have been saying that they don’t want to interfere with news and they don’t want to act like censors. 

My 2c on the iPad vs Mac debate

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Two of my favorite writers, John Gruber and Ben Brooks are weighing in on the Mac vs iPad debate. It is a highly debated topic, especially in light of the slower release of Mac computers, relatively feeble upgrades of the new machines and the growing oomph of the iPad, especially the iPad Pros.

Roads of Iceland: A Photo Collection

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“Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again!”  —
 Willie Nelson, On The Road Again! 

As someone who doesn’t drive, I love driving across vast open landscapes, through mountain passes, quiet valleys, along the sea, watching the world change. And no place is as fascinating as Iceland, where every mile brings a new adventure and a new show of nature’s immense power and magic. As Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

On a recent trip to Iceland (my second), I went around the ring road, took some country road detours and drove on dirt tracks. Each one was magical and fantastic. Some reminded me of what Jerry Seinfeld once said, “sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” These are some of the photos I made with my iPhone7Plus. Each photo is just a snapshot of the beauty and magic of Iceland, a country I absolutely adore and can’t stop thinking about.