Microsoft promises $ 500 million for affordable housing in the Seattle area

The first reaction to the announcement of the company was positive.

"There is hardly a level of housing that is not needed urgently," said King County Council member Claudia Balducci, who is helping lead the Regional Task Force on Affordable Housing.

A December Task Force report said the region needed 156,000 more affordable housing units and needed 88,000 more units by 2040 to allow for future growth.

Growing research has tied the lack of affordable housing to increasing homelessness. A December study by the real estate website Zillow said that this was especially true when households pay more than a third of their income in rent. The regions of New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle - the country's largest tech hubs - have already passed that threshold.

"The idea that you can live in your bladder and press your fingers in your ears is not working anymore," said Steve Schwartz, director of Public Affairs at Tableau Software in Seattle.

Amazon has worked closely with Mary's Place, a homeless shelter for women and children in Seattle, in recent years, integrating a shelter for about 65 families in one of the new buildings. Amazon has paid tens of millions of dollars in the city's affordable real estate funds as fees to be built in the heart of Seattle.

Amazon declined to comment.

Google supported the City of Mountain View's plan to add 10,000 housing units in one of its developed areas, with 20 percent intended for low-income residents. Facebook has planned to build 1,500 apartments near the headquarters in Menlo Park, with 15 percent being affordable.

Microsoft has begun refurbishing its main Redmond property, providing billions of dollars for refurbishment, and connecting it to a tram station under construction. The company helped fund a successful campaign that enabled voters to approve more property taxes to fund transportation. This new investment in housing construction goes one step further.

"Microsoft will be here and the region must work," said Ms. Balducci. "I do not think that's completely altruism."