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Cities Policy

Tech Firms Face Reckoning Over Homelessness Crisis

After officials in the San Francisco mayor’s office launched a new fund three years ago to attract corporate donations for low-income housing, they spent months trying to convince the region’s largest tech firms including Alphabet to contribute tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, two people familiar with the matter said. The fund—announced by late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in 2015—eventually raised money from banks, foundations and health care firms, but little to nothing from tech companies, the people said.

The decision not to participate in the housing initiative was in keeping with the tech industry’s playbook in local politics. Companies have generally avoided policy debates in their backyards. Until recently, many of the biggest tech firms operated primarily from campuses in Silicon Valley, which critics say isolated them further from civic debates. Yet with more tech companies expanding their presence in San Francisco, many firms are struggling to find their footing in local political discussions over contentious issues like homelessness.

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