Facebook pledged $1 billion to help fix California’s affordable housing crisis one day before Mark Zuckerberg was due to address a claim that Facebook ads were enabling housing discrimination

Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University.

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Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University.
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ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook has pledged to dish out $1 billion in an attempt to combat California’s affordable housing crisis.

On October 22, the company said it will spread out an investment of $1 billion over the next decade to create around 200,000 housing units to help professionals such as teachers, nurses, and first responders live closer to the communities they work in, Facebook’s chief financial officer David Wehner wrote in a blog post.

According to the blog post, the money will be spread out across various different partnerships and projects. It will be put toward building mixed-income housing on state-owned land in communities where housing is scarce; building affordable housing and housing for the homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area; and building over 1,500 units of mixed-income housing on land already owned by the company in Menlo Park.

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The money will also be put toward building housing for teachers and other “essential workers” on public land for school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the statement outlines. Funds will be set aside to promote affordable housing in other communities where company offices are located.

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that the company plans to expand primarily outside of San Francisco due to reasons including high housing costs and bad traffic.

News of the billion-dollar pledge comes after Facebook was sued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development

In March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a claim alleging that Facebook was “encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination” by allowing advertisers to restrict who could see housing ads on the basis of race, color, sex, familial status, and other characteristics.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg testified in front of the House Financial Services Committee, where lawmakers grilled him on a variety of issues, including the Libra currency Facebook announced earlier this year, and the allegations the company faces of advertising discrimination on the platform.

Notably, the $1 billion affordable housing pledge was announced one day before the hearing.

“This has been a challenging few years for Facebook,” Zuckerberg said at the end of his opening remarks in Wednesday’s hearing. “I know we have a lot to do, but I also know that the problem of financial under-inclusion is solvable, and I believe that we can play a role in helping to find the solution.”

When Zuckerberg was asked whether Facebook would comply with requests for information about how housing companies may have discriminated, he said it would, as Business Insider’s Lisa Eadicicco reported. However, when pressed on whether or not the company would provide information about the algorithms it uses to decide which ads users receive, Zuckerberg did not give a direct answer. Instead, he responded by emphasizing that it has always been against Facebook’s policies to use its ad platform for discrimination.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment regarding the timing of the two events.

San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis

Facebook’s $1 billion pledge comes in the midst of San Francisco’s increasingly dire housing crisis.

As Laura McCamy previously reported for Business Insider, you’ll need to earn at least $172,000 a year to afford a home in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the median sales price of a two-bedroom home in the city has increased by 329% since 2000.

The median home value in the city is $1,355,200. That’s nearly six times more than the national median home value of $231,000. In fact, one of the cheapest homes in San Francisco is a 480-square-foot “fixer” that sold last December -for a whopping $600,000.

In August of 2018, Business Insider reported that 60% of tech workers in the area felt that they couldn’t afford a home.