You probably saw the big news last week: Microsoft has pledged $500 million to tackle the housing crisis in King County, after discussions that began in the wake of the big business tax repeal last spring.
How should we feel about this? On the one hand, this is a lot of money, and although much of it is in the form of loans, it should speed up the production of affordable housing and help a lot of people.
On the other hand, as our friends at the Economic Opportunity Institute have explained, relying on philanthrophy to solve social inequities is deeply problematic, undermining democracy and giving wealthy individuals and corporations far too much power over all of us.
Third, and perhaps most important as a lesson for us: As the news coverage makes clear, this happened because of the “head tax”— because of the work that TRU and Housing for All and many others did last year pushing for a tax on big business. Deep-pocketed corporate opponents successfully fought to kill the tax, but we successfully built up a public expectation that they do more to address the housing and homelessness crisis that their growth is driving.
So let’s take this as a victory, even as we recognize that corporate largesse is not the ultimate answer and it’s our job to figure out the next step forward!