Sorry Google—Funding More Homes Won’t Solve the Bay Area Housing Crunch

The technology giant announced earlier this week a $1 billion commitment to help offset the San Francisco Bay Area housing shortage. It’s a noble overture. But even that sizable amount is a very small drop in a very large ocean. And it doesn’t recognize the reality that building more houses won’t fundamentally solve the Bay Area housing crisis.

In fact, this approach perpetuates the antiquated notion that when your company expands, you build additional offices, add nearby housing to support all the new workers you bring to town, and fund more mass transit. And while alleviating burdens on existing infrastructure is wise, this approach ignores the fact that most work can be done remotely in the digital age, and we can spread opportunity more broadly as a result. (My company, Upwork, runs a digital platform that helps remote workers connect with clients.)

Year after year, the refusal to consider flexible work scenarios as a solution for housing woes results in more and more people crowding into urban areas. High-wage tech workers are driving up the cost of nearby real estate, forcing many workers to commute hundreds of hours each year to their jobs. Our roads are clogged, local infrastructure is strained, and quality of life is diminishing.

If we don’t enable more people to work where they choose, such tensions will only grow.