Google willing to build Irish homes to ease accommodation crisis, says company CEO Sundar Pichai
Exclusive: Tech giant looks at subsidising housing here after $1bn donation to US city
Google is willing to subsidise general housing in Dublin to ease the accommodation crisis, its CEO says.
"It's something we would think about doing over time," Sundar Pichai told Independent.ie "It makes sense for us as a company to do it and it's also the right thing to do."
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The tech giant is currently donating $1bn (€910m) for community housing in San Francisco to ease chronic housing costs there, where highly paid tech workers have put city living out of reach of non-tech employees.
Google now employs 8,000 people in Dublin and, with staff salaries averaging close to €100,000, it is looking for ways to invest in the wider community here.
"Things like housing are issues we care about," said Mr Pichai. "I think we are in the early stages here. I think being part of Dublin, for us, means it's important that we get our development right in a way that works for the community."
The tech boom in Dublin has seen companies such as Google and Facebook double their highly paid staff count in recent years. The surge in salaries has had a knock-on effect on housing affordability with nurses, teachers, retail workers and others struggling to find city accommodation within their budget.
However, Mr Pichai said that a sponsored housing intervention would need more than just Google's own input.
"There's got to be support from the Government too, in terms of development and planning matters.
"I think it will be a process of engagement rather than us just deciding what to do," he said.
Google now dominates part of the South Docklands, owning and developing a number of large buildings in the area.
The company sees its Dublin footprint as more than just a collection of offices and may add apartments, shops and restaurants.
But high salaries in city-based tech firms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce and others have seen lower-paid workers miss out on much of the available accommodation.
"We do want to engage with the community and do what is right as a company," said Mr Pichai.
In the San Francisco 'Bay Area' region, where Google is headquartered, housing affordability has reached chronic levels, with one-bedroom apartments now averaging more than €3,000 per month in rent.
Other US tech cities such as Seattle, which is home to Microsoft and Amazon, are experiencing similar soaring housing costs.
Mr Pichai says a commitment to housing is one expression of "good corporate citizenship" in a community.
"If you look at Silicon Valley in the past, specifically companies like Hewlett Packard and its founders, they invested a lot in the communities around them.
"And so I think that's what led to much of the sustainable development back then," he said.
"We've gone through a few years of hyper growth.
"Maybe that sees things fall behind.
"So I think it has to go hand in hand."
Mr Pichai was speaking in Dublin as the company's philanthropic arm announced a €1m grant for the children's charity Barnardos around online safety.
The scheme is to help kids understand the dangers of engaging online and how to behave responsibly themselves.
"The digital world can pose significant risk to children if they do not know how to recognise inappropriate material or react to suspicious behaviour online," said Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of Barnardos.
"It is our hope that through this partnership, we will equip children, parents and teachers with the skills, resources and knowledge to ensure they can safely explore and experience the positive opportunities the internet offers while minimising the risks."
As a result of the grant, a four-year education programme will be rolled out in schools across the country.
More than 4,000 workshops will be held in 1,000 schools.
Google and Barnardos say they hope to reach up to 10,000 students in the first year of the programme, and more than 75,000 students overall.