According to City Lab, some of Silicon Valley's tech giants are battling over Proposition C which would would raise about $300 million for homelessness initiatives a year. The money would come from an increase of about 0.5% in the gross receipts tax for San Francisco businesses earning more than $50 million a year. Half of the money would be used to build and subsidize about 5,000 new affordable housing units over the next eight years. Companies that are for and against the plan are throwing millions of dollars at efforts to support or oppose the legislation.
Locally, the proposition is a referendum on how San Francisco should address its growing homelessness problem, and on how tech giants could help shrink it. But the posturing that has followed also illustrates Big Tech’s growing influence on local governments nationwide.
Other cities where housing rates are climbing have also considered business taxes to directly address affordability, and have faced similarly tense responses. In Seattle, a per-employee tax on the city’s largest businesses to fund affordable housing and homelessness initiatives was passed by the city council in May—only to be killed months later, after Amazon and other local companies contributed a total of $300,000 to its opposition fund.
By September, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced he’d be starting his own fund to support existing homelessness non-profits. In doing so, he seemed to signal a preference for philanthropy over policy—or at least over taxation.
Cupertino, home to Apple’s headquarters, had been floating a head tax of its own before shelving it this year, fearing Apple’s outrage. Mountain View, home to Google’s headquarters, has moved forward with putting an increase of their business license tax on the November ballot.