You know things are broken when $94,000 per year makes you a low-income household. But that's the harsh reality of living in Santa Clara County, the beating heart of Silicon Valley.
That fact appears to be weighing heavily on the conscience of Mark Zuckerberg, who announced he's donating $250,000 to Affordable Housing Now, a Valley-based political action committee sponsoring an initiative to alleviate California's housing crisis. If passed by voters in November, the ballot measure would raise $4 billion in bonds to fund housing assistance for veterans and their families, as well as bolster projects to build additional low-income housing.
This is sorely needed, and Zuckerberg's pledge is a good thing.
But it comes at a time when Facebook is expanding around its Menlo Park headquarters, as well as into nearby San Francisco, Freemont, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. Many other tech companies are making similar moves, both in Silicon Valley and other hubs like New York.
So not only did tech help create the problem, tech is exacerbating it. (For scale, Facebook alone employs over 25,000 full-timers in the area, as well as thousands of contractors. And they're far from being the biggest game in town.)
The irony is hard to miss. The real solution isn't.
Instead of drawing thousands more workers to an already over-populated patch of earth, Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley leaders, could--should--embrace remote work and distributed teams.
Allowing employees to telecommute from (or opening offices in) less expensive regions would prompt a small but significant exodus of people already fed up with the congestion and high cost-of-living, creating an immediate stock of available housing. It would also give companies access to a far larger talent pool, reducing their recruiting costs while simultaneously sharpening their workforce.
Living comfortably in Silicon Valley and other metro areas in California used to be simply a matter of getting a white-collar job. Now, it's a matter of making tremendous sacrifices in your standard of living for all but the super-rich.
It doesn't have to be that way. Remote work offers a path forward that benefit both workers and the companies who employ them.