Tech Leaders Seek Bigger Political Role With Housing Push

A small group of executives at tech companies like Microsoft, Stripe and Yelp are organizing and funding a new effort to sway policy that would make way for more housing development in California—a political debate that industry leaders have largely avoided until now.

Led by Microsoft executive Nat Friedman, Pantheon CEO Zack Rosen and San Francisco housing activist Brian Hanlon, the group has raised more than $500,000 so far to start a lobbying organization that will try to influence state legislators in Sacramento and draft bills that promote housing growth. The goal also is to whip up local support across the state to push for more housing in places that have long restricted the construction of apartments and other multifamily buildings.

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California YIMBY’s Mr. Friedman, former CEO of Xamarin, an app development platform bought by Microsoft last year, added: “There are a lot of people in tech who recognize this is a problem not only for tech but for everyone in the region. They want to help but don’t know what to do. We’ve provided people with a plausible strategy they can support.”

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Between 2000 and 2013, renters across the state endured a more than 20% increase in rent but saw incomes fall by nearly 10%, the housing department says.