(Editor’s Note: Tweets in this story contain explicit language)
Whether it’s deserved or not, the Seattle tech community has become a target for the frustrations of longtime residents grappling with the rising cost of living, and housing affordability issues. A new ad campaign from Code Fellows, the Seattle-based coding academy, isn’t likely to mitigate the tension.
The King County Metro bus ad, spotted by Reddit user moroccahamed, uses Seattle’s housing affordability crisis to advertise the programming bootcamp’s developer training classes. “You know who can afford a house in Seattle?” the ad says. “Software Developers.”
The Reddit post has more than 250 comments — and most of them aren’t praising Code Fellows’ clever marketing strategy. Others have taken to Twitter to voice their indignation.
— Jason Justice (@j_justice) May 11, 2017
— Derek Hassell (@derek_hassell) May 10, 2017
Saw some photos of this floating around. Gross, gross, gross. https://t.co/nq8AQ7sEN4
— Seattlish (@seattlish) May 12, 2017
“We removed the ad as soon as we were informed it was offensive,” Code Fellows CEO Jeff Malek told GeekWire. “It was not our intent to benefit in any way from the Seattle housing crisis, our intent was to highlight opportunity for those hoping to change their lives for the better. We believe that the tech space needs to be more inclusive, we work hard towards that objective, and we’re very invested in diversity.”
Seattle’s home values are on a seemingly endless ascent, reaching a median sale price of $700,000 in April. Rents are on the rise too, pushing out lower-income residents and adding to a growing homelessness crisis.
“This does not reflect our company values,” Code Fellows said on Twitter. “Our mission is to change the tech talent pool with diversity.”
To be fair, Code Fellows has been making strides toward that mission. The company has pledged $5 million to help women, minorities, and veterans get access to tech training and offers scholarships to bring more underrepresented groups into software development roles.
But after running these ads, Code Fellows will have to work that much harder to prove to Seattle that it wants to build an inclusive community.
Update: Listen below to our discussion debating this ad and the larger issues it raised.