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

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Culture

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Google

Few artists have reached the level of fame as Frida Kahlo. The Mexican painter is more than an artist. Kahlo is a point of cultural pride that transcends nationality within the Latino community and unites Latino art lovers in their le of Latin American art. Now, Google, in the time of self-isolation, is giving everyone a chance to learn about the iconic painter.

Google wants to give everyone a chance to learn about Frida Kahlo with its online “Faces of Frida” exhibit.

Credit: Google

Anyone who visits the “Face of Frida” exhibit can browse through the artist’s incredible paintings. Kahlo is one of the most influential artists the world has ever known. Her fame and people’s admiration continue to this day with tributes still appearing around the world for the Mexican artist.

Viewers can decide which museum’s Frida Kahlo collection they want to explore.

Credit: Google

The exhibit is made possible by 32 museums from around the world collaborating to show Frida Kahlo’s impressive and iconic works of art. Museums across four continents shared Kahlo piece from their exhibits with Google to create an exhibit showing more than 800 paintings. Some of the museums include Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the United States, Nagoya City Art Museum in Japan, Fundación MAPFRE in Spain, and Buenos Aires Graffiti in Argentina.

The interactive exhibit is perfect for all Frida Kahlo and art lovers alike. While 3.4 billion people in the world are on lockdown orders, the incredible virtual exhibit of Kahlo’s work gives people a chance to see works of art they haven’t been able to visit yet.

The exhibit is easy to navigate and some of Kahlo’s works have been collected into their own themed galleries.

Credit: Google

Kahlo is most famous for using her own life as the inspiration for her works of art. The artist often played with the themes of pain and death due to her own near-death experiences. Her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera influenced Kahlo’s work depending on where they were in their relationship. The couple was notorious for taking extra-marital lovers throughout their marriage.

“Faces of Frida” also offers art fans a chance to learn about Kahlo through editorial features.

Credit: Google

Kahlo was one of the most revolutionary women in the world. She moved through space unimpeded by society’s views on her gender and place in society. She was politically engaged and held onto a list of values that many still argue over today. Namely, there have been discussions and think pieces about the sudden commercialized usage of Kahlo’s image and what she might have to say about it. As someone who was opposed to capitalism, it seems safe to say she might not have appreciated herself being used for capitalistic gains.

You can visit “Faces of Frida” by clicking here.

READ: This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

These Latinas Are Changing The World With Their Groundbreaking Inventions In Science, Technology, And Engineering

Things That Matter

These Latinas Are Changing The World With Their Groundbreaking Inventions In Science, Technology, And Engineering

@techreview_es / Twitter

Women are under-represented in the tech sector. Not only that, but they’re underpaid, often passed for promotions and faced with everyday sexism. It’s no wonder women are more likely to leave the industry within a year compared to their male counterparts. But there’s hope. Last week, the MIT Technology Review published a list of the leading Latin American innovators of 2019, and we wanted to highlight the women, who have pushed through in a male-dominated industry and are creating solutions for issues like climate change, terminal illnesses, and other threats. 

In a field that requires women to work alongside men who don’t believe women have the intelligence and inclination to work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), these Latina innovators are proving otherwise.

Renee Wittemyer, director of program strategy and investment at Pivotal Ventures —Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company— says that women, and particularly women of color, “are being systemically left behind.” And, she adds, “these stats are moving at a glacial pace.” According to Wittemeyer, African American women and Hispanic women represent 3% and 1% of tech workers respectively.

There is an extensive underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. 

Women make up only 24 percent of the STEM workforce. To make matters worse, only 3 percent of Latina women are working in STEM fields. So these Latina innovators are worth celebrating. 

These scientists, biologists and engineers are making a social impact by solving many of the world’s most complex questions and threatening issues—from climate change to terminal illnesses to social problems.

Here are five Latina innovators shaking up the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) sphere and using technology to create a greater impact for the world:

Lucía Gallardo

technologyreview.es

Lucía Gallardo is the brain behind “Emerge,” a start-up that aims to solve social problems with emerging technologies, such as blockchain, Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). “Through her company, Gallardo tries to bring these tools to people who work on social impact projects, especially in impoverished countries such as her native Honduras. One of Emerge’s main sources of support is women and marginalized communities, who are driven by both technology and advice,” MIT Technology Review writes.

María Alexandra Tamayo

technologyreview.es

This Colombian innovator, is purifying water in a country that has the second-most water resources but where only 8% of households have access to drinking water. This way, the biomedical engineer hopes to avoid diseases and death caused by water.

“This is how NanoPro was born, a device ‘capable of eliminating fungi, viruses and bacteria from water without affecting its taste, smell and color,’ the engineer explains. “The filter can be applied in both rural and urban populations, since it is incorporated both in faucets and in thermoses for those areas whose supply network does not reach homes.” With her invention, Tamayo hopes to democratize the access to drinkable water.

Marcela Torres

technologyreview.es

Marcela Torres wants to help refugees and immigrants in Mexico through “Holacode,” a software she developed to provide immigrants with access to employment and better integrate themselves into society. “Marcela Torres realized that in Mexico there were not enough people with the qualifications needed for the software developer positions that were open in the country, so she decided to use technology to solve the problem,” the MIT magazine wrote. “This is how ‘Holacode’ was born, a start-up that offers software development courses for the migrant community in Mexico.” Holacode offers coding and software courses for migrants in Mexico. The courses lasts five months, and with this start-up, Torres hopes that technology education can become more democratic and accessible. “The start-up allows these jobs to be filled by especially vulnerable people such as migrants.”

María Isabel Amorín

technologyreview.es

Amorín, 28-year-old Guatemalan chemist discovered an innovative way to clean sewage. On top of emissions and the excessive rate at which we are consuming resources, another great impact that global industrial activities have on the planet, is water pollution. In short, textile industries use a lot of chemical dyes for the production of clothing, which not only results in massive water waste but these chemicals can pollute rivers and other bodies of water. 

The Guatemalan chemist, Maria Isabel Amorin, “synthesized a polymer from shrimp shells that’s capable of retaining the dyes used in the textile industry.” According to the MIT Technology Review, “The filter works by recirculating and retaining the dye used to dye clothes. This project is particularly focused on artisanal textile production, since the technologies available to treat the waters are very expensive. Now, the young chemist is in the process of patenting her ecological method of filtration and hopes to scale production.”

Mariel Pérez Carrillo

technologyreview.es

This Mexican biochemical engineer and entrepreneur, helps farmers increase their crop production through Innus Technologies. Carillo recalled, “I went to the countryside to learn from the farmers and I realized that they don’t know how their crop is. They also don’t know what state their soil is in.” She invented Enviro, a device that identifies soil conditions and climate in real time and, from them, offers recommendations to improve crop yields.

Thanks to its sensors, Enviro can measure temperature, humidity, conductivity, pH and salinity. The device can help farmers reduce crop losses. Pérez affirms that Enviro also reduces the need of agricultural supplies, “which reduces the contamination of soil and aquifers caused by to excessive use of agricultural chemicals.”