Parallel to this and largely under the radar, however, the private tech sector is moving into position to swoop in and take advantage of the impending housing crisis. Just as news of a mysterious virus was breaking late last year, Facebook invested $1 billion for the construction of 20,000 new affordable housing units in California, following Google’s lead which had made the exact same commitment a few months earlier. Apple more than doubled Google’s and Facebook’s investment, combined, when it put down $2.5 billion for the same cause.
There are usually hundreds of tents sprawled out in an industrial zone southwest of downtown Phoenix. For years, roughly 500 people experiencing homelessness have camped out there on the streets surrounding Arizona’s biggest homeless shelter, Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), though the shelter doesn’t have any room for them.
Since April, roughly 200 of those people and their tents have instead been fenced in on black asphalt lots near the encampment as part of Maricopa County’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Although Phoenix has managed to avoid a major outbreak among its homeless population so far, many of the steps taken by the city and by the county since the pandemic began have been questioned. The decision to corral people into the lots is perhaps the government’s most controversial choice.