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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One year ago, Microsoft announced it would invest $500 million to address the affordable housing crisis in Seattle. Today, it announced an additional $250 million in the form of a line of credit to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

Why it matters: The additional allocation brings Microsoft's total investment to $750 million, deepening its role in its hometown as part financier, part philanthropist in trying to lessen the low- and middle-wage housing shortage plaguing many tech hubs around the country.

  • Microsoft was the first tech giant to make a substantial commitment for affordable housing after realizing that essential workers like teachers and nurses could no longer afford to live in the area.
  • As homelessness and skyrocketing housing costs have worsened in the tech industry's backyard, Apple, Facebook and Google in November announced investments to address the problem.

Flashback: Jane Broom, senior director of Microsoft Philanthropies, told me in October that that the company would likely make a follow-on investment. She also noted the high interest from the Seattle business community to help fill funding gaps for affordable housing projects.

Yes, but: Despite the interest, the pipeline of affordable developments that met Microsoft's criteria for investment was surprisingly small, underscoring how hard it has become to create affordable housing in the Puget Sound region.

  • "There are discussions happening that weren’t happening before," Broom told me this week. "But right now there’s still a lot of talk, a lot of hypothesizing and listening. We really want to move toward action and work with developers to help prime the pump with some clearly defined projects."

Details: The $250 million line of credit to the WSHFC will preserve and recycle tax-exempt bond status, essentially providing more funds for incremental affordable housing projects.

  • How it works: The commission has a limited number of tax-exempt bonds available. But the demand far outweighs the supply. So the line of credit will allow the commission to repay a tax-exempt bond used for an affordable housing project, which then allows the bond to be re-allocated to another project.
  • Microsoft expects the money could create up to 3,000 more affordable housing units over the next decade.

As part of its initial investment, the company also announced today a $50 million investment in the Evergreen Housing Impact Fund that will create about 1,250 units of low-income housing on Seattle's Eastside.

  • Microsoft also announced two $2.5 million philanthropic grants to organizations building affordable housing in neighborhoods including Central District, Capitol Hill and White Center, all of which have become unaffordable in recent years.
  • With these projects and the additional investment, Microsoft has committed $380 million of its total $750 million commitment. The money will support preserving or creating more than 6,671 housing units, Microsoft says.

Bottom line: As we've written before, the affordable housing crisis is so severe that corporate investments won't be the silver bullet. Zoning codes, tax laws, construction costs, the price of land and cut-backs on federal affordable housing assistance are all factors — and will take years to address.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden administration seeks to allow separated migrant families to reunite in U.S.

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday that the Biden administration will explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to reunite the hundreds of families still separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, and signed an executive order last month creating a family separation task force chaired by Mayorkas.

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced a bill in the Senate that would impose a new tax on the assets of America's wealthiest individuals.

Why it matters: The plan, which Warren introduced along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is similar to a proposal that was the centerpiece of Warren's campaign for the presidency in 2020.