Facebook’s decision to expand its campus in Menlo Park, California, is causing a major increase in rent for surrounding buildings. Longtime tenants, and especially low-income Latinx tenants, continue to be priced out as landlords hike up rent prices based on proximity to Facebook’s campus, according to The Guardian. Residents of the community find themselves facing sudden displacement.
From The Guardian:
Luis Carriel, 38-year-old father of three who works two kitchen jobs and has been living in his apartment for a decade, said he would like to see Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, step up in some way. “We don’t work for Facebook … Why do we have to pay the high price?”
The link to Facebook is undeniable: multiple real estate companies have used proximity to the campus as part of their marketing strategy. One in particular in Menlo Park has increased rent from $1,100 to $1,900 a month, forcing families to vacate the now unaffordable buildings. (The greater San Francisco area has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the entire country, according to this report.) As Facebook moves forward with its rapid expansion in the area, it is likely that property managers will continue to maximize off of Zucktown.
The overwhelming presence of tech companies like Facebook has been linked to increased inequality. In Patterson, California, homelessness rates have spiked sharply as families are displaced by tech firm employees commuting to the Bay Area. In Seattle, Amazon pressured the city council to repeal a business tax aimed at large corporations, that would have provided funding to tackle the city’s increased homelessness and housing inequality.
Facebook—a company valued at almost $500 billion—previously promised to invest $20 million towards housing projects in Silicon Valley, and planned to build 1,500 units of housing around its campus. However only 15 percent of these units would be offered at below market rent, meaning the majority of these units would likely be inaccessible to low-income residents.
Residents in the area have attempted to push back by forming a tenants’ union, but found that they did not have access to rent control protections. “It is a completely unjust situation, even if what’s happening to these people may be legal,” attorney Daniel Saver told The Guardian.
The devastating impact of Facebook’s irresponsible expansion stands in stark contrast with the image of the company promoted by its recent marketing strategies. Facebook has attempted to rebuild its brand, post-fake news and data breaches, as a supposedly ethical and caring corporation with the tagline “Here Together.” Not so much for the residents of Menlo Park.