Responding to a growing need for affordable housing, Kaiser Permanente announced Friday the company would invest $200 million for new housing and community needs for low-income residents.
The health care giant, based in Oakland, plans to shift funds from its investment portfolio to support affordable housing. The company sees the investment as an extension of its health care services, saying that public health is bolstered by stable living conditions and shelter.
Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said the investment would alleviate a major risk to health — homelessness.
“We now get it,” Tyson told a group of housing advocates and mayors around the country, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “It is about total health. It is about mind. It is about body. It is about spirit.”
No projects have been announced, and the company expects to invest the funds over the next three to five years.
New affordable housing developments have dwindled in the Bay Area, where high land and construction costs and fewer government funds have driven developers to build market-rate properties.
State planning guidelines show Bay Area communities are building less than one-quarter of the housing needed for the poorest 25 percent of families.
The average rent for a two-bedroom in San Jose in March was $2,570, according to Apartment List. In Oakland, a typical two-bedroom leased for $2,270 a month. High housing costs have driven workers into makeshift, temporary housing around the region, including rented rooms for entire families, RVs lining suburban streets and tent villages at highway exits in cities.
Schaaf said Kaiser Permanente’s investment would foster new relationships between cities and companies to address a growing homeless population. “In Oakland, housing in not just a crisis, it is the crisis,” she said.
Oakland would look for innovations, such as a recent move of homeless residents into AN encampment of small Tuff Sheds, Schaaf said. But more needs to be done, she said, noting that a recent census showed the homeless population growing in the city.
Kaiser Permanente joins other Bay Area companies seeking to improve housing for poor residents. In March, Cisco pledged $50 million to alleviate homelessness in Santa Clara County. A 2017 census estimated nearly 8,000 residents were without shelter.
Kaiser Permanente commits 0 million toward affordable homes