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To Ease The Seattle Housing Crisis, Microsoft Pledges $500Mn

Smith said he views the fund as an acknowledgment of the economic realities faced by low-salary workers at the company and elsewhere in King County.

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A man lies in a tent with others camped nearby, under and near an overpass in Seattle, Feb. 9, 2016. Microsoft pledged $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing in response to the Seattle region's widening affordability gap. VOA

Microsoft pledged $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing in response to the Seattle region’s widening affordability gap.

Most of the money will be aimed at increasing housing options in the Puget Sound region for low- and middle-income workers at a time when they’re being priced out of Seattle and some of its suburbs, and when the vast majority of new buildings target wealthier renters, said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

The pledge is the largest in the company’s 44-year history, and, according to the company, is one of the heftiest contributions by a private corporation to housing, The Seattle Times reported. In comparison, the amount dwarfs the $100 million in annual funding for Washington state’s Housing Trust Fund.

It’s too early to say exactly how much affordable housing will ultimately result from the $500 million, Microsoft officials said. Smith said the company, based in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, hopes to leverage the fund to help create “tens of thousands of units.”

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Microsoft’s Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash., Nov. 30, 2016. VOA

Funds split three ways

The initiative comes as Microsoft and other tech giants that have driven the region’s economic boom face increasing pressure to help mitigate affordable-housing shortages. Microsoft is coupling its contributions with a call for other companies to step up, and for Seattle’s Eastside suburbs, of which Redmond is one, to facilitate more housing.

The company, which plans a news conference Thursday, will split the funds three ways.

Microsoft will loan $225 million at below-market interest rates to help developers facing high land and construction costs build and preserve “workforce housing” on the Eastside, where the company has 50,000 workers and is planning for more. The developments will be aimed at households making between $62,000 and $124,000 per year.

Secondly, $250 million will go toward market-rate loans for construction of affordable housing across the Puget Sound region for people making up to 60 percent of the local median income ($48,150 for a two-person household). The remaining $25 million will be donated to services for the region’s low-income and homeless residents.

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A homeless man sits at his street-side tent along Interstate 110 along downtown Los Angeles’ skyline, May 10, 2018. Thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County.. VOA

Acknowledging the reality

Smith said he views the fund as an acknowledgment of the economic realities faced by low-salary workers at the company and elsewhere in King County.

Also Read: The Plight of India’s Homeless Women Increases As Cities Expand

“At some level we as a region are going to need to either say there are certain areas where we’re comfortable having more people live, or we just want permanently to force the people who are going to teach our kids in schools, and put out the fires in our houses and keep us alive in the hospital, to spend four hours every day getting to and from work,” he said. “That is not, in our view, the best outcome for the community.” (VOA)

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Content Moderators on Facebook and YouTube Asked to Sign PTSD Forms

Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign PTSD forms

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Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign forms detailing that the job may cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Pixabay

Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign forms detailing that the job may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to The Financial Times and The Verge, global professional services firm Accenture which provides content moderators for big tech firms have asked them to sign a form, explicitly acknowledging that their job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

Accenture runs at least three content moderation sites for Facebook in Europe, including in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin. A similar document was also provided by Accenture to workers at a YouTube content moderation facility in Austin, Texas. Accenture said the wellbeing of workers was a “top priority”.

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Accenture runs at least three content moderation sites for Facebook in Europe, including in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin. Pixabay

“We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do,” the company said in a statement.

“According to an employee who signed one of these acknowledgment forms, every moderator at the facility was emailed a link and asked to sign immediately,” the report said.

The Accenture form says workers might review “disturbing” videos and that moderating “such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Both Facebook and Google said they did not review Accenture’s new form.

The Verge’s probe last month into Accenture’s Austin site described hundreds of low-paid immigrants toiling in, removing videos flagged for extreme violence and terrorist content.

Also Read- Tech Giant Apple Becomes One of The Fastest-Growing Brands in India

“The moment they quit Accenture or get fired, they lose access to all mental health services. One former moderator for Google said she was still experiencing symptoms of PTSD two years after leaving,” the report claimed.

Last year, The Verge published a report of Facebook moderators and one of them said he “sleeps with a gun by his side” after doing the job. (IANS)