Tech, the Housing Crisis, and a Moral Test

Author: Joanna Torres | UC Berkeley School of Law | J.D.  Candidate 2020 | Posted: February 24, 2020 | Download PDF.

The tech industry continues to attract workers to the Bay Area. Yet, the housing supply has not kept up and as a result, housing prices have skyrocketed. San Francisco’s Proposition C would tax the city’s wealthiest companies to raise about $300 million a year to combat homelessness.[1] The measure attempts to hold tech industry leaders accountable for a problem they helped create but have largely left unaddressed.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, has supported the measure from the beginning and has donated both personal and company money.[2] Benioff believed that other tech companies would follow his lead and support the measure.[3] However, many companies have opposed the measure.

In contrast to the other companies, Benioff’s support of Proposition C demonstrates that he recognizes that addressing affordable housing is essential to the well-being of both stockholders and stakeholders. This stakeholder theory holds that considering multiple stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, the environment, and the community is essential to the long-term value of a company.[4]

         On its behalf, Google has also recognized that tech should play a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for longtime middle-and low-income residents.

Google, one of the most valuable public corporations, saw RV encampments pop up on

its Mountain View campus.[5] The reason for the RV encampments? Employees were forced to live in RV’s since they couldn’t afford to rent or buy housing. After Silicon Valley cities cracked down on RV’s, RV residents were faced with an even more uncertain future.

         In the wake of the events, Google has said it wants to be a “good neighbor” and has pledged to invest $1 billion in land and money to build homes. The $1 billion dollars cannot be straight up considered a donation, Google will likely make money off the leases and low-interest loans, and instead is a “$1 Billion Dollar Social Investment”.[6] Like Benioff, Google’s executives are taking a long-term view by adopting the stakeholder theory and recognizing that such an investment overtime benefits both stockholders and stakeholders. With their “good neighbor” framing, Google demonstrates that its decision considered not only its employees as stakeholders, but also the communities surrounding Google as stakeholders. However, Google’s decision was not solely on it being a “good neighbor”, the bad reputation from the RV encampments was also at play. Google recognized that the bad reputation negatively impacts Google’s business. Google sees the big picture- less homelessness means safer communities and streets for Google employees which equals more employee efficiency.

Salesforce and Google, have each backed two different structural solutions to combat the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Each has shown that companies are willing to put support in this issue even if they are doing it independently with no support from other companies. However, there is the question of if more effective solutions can come about from these two tech giants joining forces. As the role of businesses in our communities continues to be rethought, will these two tech giants continue to lead the rest of the industry and hold them accountable?


[1] Marc Benioff, The Social Responsibility of Business, October 24, 2018,

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Alistair Barr, An RV Camp Sprung Up Outside Google’s Headquarters. Now Mountain View Wants to Ban It, Mat 21, 2019,

[5] Daisuke Wakabayahi and Cono Dougherty, Google Pledges to Invest $2 Billion to Easy Bay Area Housing Crisis, June 18, 2019,

[6] Id.