Things That Matter

Tech Companies Like Apple And Facebook Are Putting Billions Of Dollars Toward Affordable Housing, A Crisis They Created

It’s no hidden secret that affordable housing has become a growing crisis on the West Coast. Cities like San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle have all seen tech giants come into communities and play a big role when it comes to the huge spike in the cost of living. While Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon have contributed to economic success in these areas, there is a large portion of middle and lower-class residents, mostly Latino and Blacks, who aren’t seeing any of that growth. With an increasing number of tech workers coming into these cities, rising home and rent costs have followed. That in return has created a housing crisis for many.

 In recent months, these tech companies have finally spoken up about the problem by pledging to spend money on building affordable housing in their respective communities. Back in June, Google announced $1 billion while Facebook pledged another $1 billion in October. Apple, earlier this month, said it would devote $2.5 billion. Yet there is increased skepticism and concerns that throwing money at this issue won’t solve anything. 

Tech companies like Google and Amazon have brought in billions of dollars in local tax revenue in cities like San Jose and Seattle. But that success has also created a housing issue for many that can’t afford to live there anymore. 

The rise of these giant tech companies has also meant a rise in the cost of living in the nearby cities that they’re located in. That is evident when looking at the economics of the housing markets and the number of people moving into these communities. Over the last decade, there was an 8.4 percent increase in the total population of the Bay Area, which includes San Francisco and San Jose, but during that same period, the number of housing units grew by less than 5 percent. 

Even as new homes are being built, the prices have become more of a reflection of the new demographic coming in. According to NBC, “Software engineers earn a starting salary of about $160,000 at Apple, Google, and Facebook, 40 percent more than the national average for the same job.”

Many middle-class Latinos and Black families have struggled to find affordable housing in these tech cities and as a result, many are now homeless.  

 Credit: Unsplash

The sight of homelessness and giant RV’s parked on city streets has become an image too familiar in San Jose as many have turned to living out of their cars. In the Bay Area, the issue of homelessness has only been expedited by the rise in home and rent prices which can be attributed to the tech industry in the area. As of now, the Bay Area has the third-largest population of people experiencing homelessness. Ahead of it is New York and Los Angeles, with Seattle just behind. 

What has become evident is that one specific population of people is benefitting from these economic and social gains while others has been somewhat been forgotten. Tamara Mitchell, a volunteer at the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco, is one of those that feels like the city has turned it’s back on people like her. 

“It kind of feels like they’re pushing you out of your home,” Mitchell told CNBC. “We’ve been homeless, we’ve been staying in hotels, we’ve been staying with family members – it’s been a lot.”

Making matters worse is the lack of opportunity for some when it comes to those trying to gain from the economic benefits in the area. When it comes to hiring, the most common demographic tech companies hired in 2018 were white and Asian male-identified individuals. Last year, Google employed 95 percent white or Asian individuals and 74 percent of those hired were male. The same trend followed at Apple as the same figures came in at 84 percent and 77 percent, respectively. In return, this has left most of the remaining jobs as lower-wage positions with limited opportunities with the majority of these roles being taken by Latinos and Blacks.  

“We’re being ignored,” Liz González, a contributor at Silicon Valley De-Bug, told CNBC about rising concerns of Google in the Bay Area. “We’re being displaced, and folks who have no long term interests in this community get to decide what it looks like and who gets to live here.”

As these tech companies have made a commitment to try and address the affordable housing crisis in their communities, many wonder if it’s enough or too late altogether. 

Credit: Unsplash

As the more than $4.5 billion in corporate contributions towards affordable housing has been announced, money still may not be enough to fix the problem. Experts say addressing issues like rewriting zoning and permit regulations from local governments, building various housing options besides single-family homes and public transportation alternatives. 

What these tech companies have also realized is that retaining and attracting new employees will become an increasingly prominent issue as housing and rent prices continue to soar. While there is skepticism that affordable housing in the Bay Area and Seattle can be fixed in the near future, some are relieved to finally seeing tech companies acknowledge that there is a problem.

“I don’t think any tech company that has made these new announcements are really thinking their single contribution is solving the housing crisis,” said Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley, told CBS. “It doesn’t solve the entire problem, but the fact that they’re joining is a big, important, positive step to getting us to solve the crisis.”

READ: There’s No Mexican Christmas Without Posadas: We Rounded Up 11 Facts About Them That You Probably Never Knew About

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This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Things That Matter

This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Photo via Steven Nava

At this point, it’s common knowledge that the pandemic has had a negative financial impact on many Americans. When the pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs. Some people dealt with food and housing insecurity. And this homeless teacher experienced exactly that.

But if there’s one positive thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that there are tons of amazing humans out there who are willing to lend a hand when they see a fellow human suffering.

Recently, a homeless teacher named José Villaruel, received help from a former student who discovered him sleeping in his car.

The former student’s name is Steven Nava and he ran into Villaruel, purely by coincidence. “Every morning/night I’ve always noticed this older man that would stay out in his car constantly at this parking lot near my house, even when the weather was bad,” wrote Nava on Twitter. “He looked familiar…”

Nava ended up approaching the older man. That is when he discovered that the man was him former teacher José Villaruel, whom Nava affectionately calls “Mr. V”.

“Turns out he’s gone homeless since the whole pandemic hit and he’s been struggling getting back to his feet,” wrote Nava. “His car is really old and that’s where he’s been staying for the past year.”

Apparently, the homeless teacher had only one source of income–a monthly social security check. He sent most of the money to his sick wife in Mexico.

Nava gave Mr. V $300 to get a hotel for the night. Meanwhile, he got to work to try and fix the homeless teacher’s situation more permanently. “I had a mission to help the teacher who was going through a difficult time during the pandemic,” Nava told TODAY.

José Villaruel’s former student took to Twitter to inform his followers of Mr. V’s situation and ask for additional help.

“I come to the Twitter community and ask for help in raising money to help him out,” Nava wrote. “I know if we can all pitch in even $1 it will go a long way.” Nava shared a link to a GoFundMe for Mr. V. And to his surprise, the donations began to roll in.

By the end of the fundraising period, Nava had raised over $27,000 for the homeless teacher–far surpassing his original fundraising goal of $15,000.

Donations flooded in both from Villaruel’s former students and from concerned citizens who were happy to help the older gentleman get back on his feet.

“[Mr. Villaruel] was always so sweet when I had him as a sub 🙁 Thank you so much for looking out for him I hope you reach your goal for him!!!” wrote one Twitter user.

As a final gift, Steven Nava planned a surprise party for Mr. Villaruel 77th birthday that happened to be that week.

Former students of Mr. V gathered to pay tribute to the teacher who had touched their lives years before. When Mr. V showed up, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Then, Nava gifted a stunned Mr. V with a $27,000 check.

José Villaruel told media outlets that the experience touched him deeply.

“It is an experience of my life that will be kept for the rest of my life. I carry it in my heart,” he said. “I felt that something was going to happen, that things were going to change, and it happened suddenly when I least expected it.

Since then, Steven Nava has continued to fundraise for Mr. V. Altogether, he has raised over $50,000 for his former teacher–and counting. You can visit the GoFundMe page here.

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Brazil is Fining Apple $2 Million For Selling the iPhone 12 Without A Charger, And We’re Not Mad About It

Things That Matter

Brazil is Fining Apple $2 Million For Selling the iPhone 12 Without A Charger, And We’re Not Mad About It

Photo via Getty Images

It seems like every new product rollout, Apple gets stingier and stingier with what they include with each purchase. And while Brazil has recently been in the headlines for controversial news, this time, they have the public opinion on their side. Standing up for consumers, Brazil is fining Apple for alleged “false advertising”.

On Friday, a consumer watchdog agency announced that Brazil is fining Apple for $2 million. The reason? Not including a charger with the iPhone 12.

According to Procon, the São Paulo-based consumer protection agency, Apple’s decision not to include a charger with the iPhone 12 amounts to “false advertising”. Procon also accused Apple of selling “defective products”, creating unfair contracts for consumers, and failing to repair products that are still under warranty.

Per Brazilian media, Procon contacted Apple last year to ask them why they were now excluding chargers and earbuds. However, the company “never offered a convincing explanation” to the Brazilian agency.

“Apple needs to understand that in Brazil there are solid laws and institutions for consumer protection,” said Procon executive Fernando Capez, explaining why Brazil is fining Apple. “It needs to respect these laws and these institutions.” 

In October of 2020, Apple announced that it would no longer include chargers or earbuds in their iPhone boxes. The company cited “environmental concerns”.

But savvy consumers couldn’t help but be skeptical of Apple’s explanation. Some people thought that Apple’s “environmental decision” was simply a pretense. In reality, they thought it might be a gimmick to take more money from customers under the pretense of environmentalism.

For one, we fail to see how including chargers and earbuds in an iPhone package would help the environment. Wouldn’t individual boxes for each product simply contribute to more waste? We digress….

In general, consumers across the globe can’t help but…agree with Procon.

Anyone who is an Apple devotee (read: prisoner) knows that you can end up feeling trapped as a customer. You become roped into an endless cycle of buying products that seem to be diminishing in quality every year. Not only that, but every year, the iPhone becomes more expensive while customers get less bang for their buck.

But at some point, you feel like you have to buy Apple products. Because of how Apple designs their products, all of the technology you own (laptops, tablets, chargers, etc.) only works with Apple products.

Starting to buy a different brand would be akin to throwing away hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars you’ve already invested in Apple tech. To be an Apple customer is to be stuck in a vicious cycle.

Hopefully, other governments will follow suit. After all, big tech has been taking advantage of consumers for too long.

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