Amazon promises $2B for affordable housing projects near its corporate offices

Arlington and Seattle are really expensive, and Amazon's not making 'em any cheaper.


Kate Cox, Ars Technica



Amazon is planning to spend $2 billion over the next five years to invest in affordable housing in the three cities where its major offices have helped jack up housing prices, the company said today.


The company will be using loans, lines of credit, and grants to "preserve and create" 20,000 committed affordable units for low- to moderate-income families in the general areas around Seattle, Nashville, and Arlington, Virginia, where it has a large corporate presence, Amazon said in a press release this morning.


"Affordable housing" is generally defined as priced to be within reach of families making 80 percent or less of the area median income. Amazon specifically is targeting households coming in between 30 and 80 percent of the area AMI. The AMI for the Washington, DC, metro area, including Arlington, is $126,000, and so basically any household making between $37,000 and $100,800 falls within that range. In Seattle, the AMI is $119,400, and so that window would include households making between approximately $35,800 and $95,500.


Amazon has already made two significant investments in affordable housing in those regions, the company added. The first is a combination loan-and-grant package of $340 million it granted the Washington Housing Conservancy to acquire an apartment complex, Crystal House, in Arlington.


"We don't have control over how the [housing] markets respond to a large employer coming into the market or expanding in the market, but we can play a role in how Amazon's growth is impacting our local communities," Catherine Buell, head of community development for one of Amazon's philanthropic arms, told The Wall Street Journal. "Particularly as we're expanding our corporate presence, we're working to get ahead of the issue as much as we can."


Amazon's pledge won support among affordable housing advocates in Virginia. "We're thrilled that Amazon is really making a quantum leap in their investment in affordable housing," Nina Janopaul, president and CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, told Ars. Amazon contributed $1 million to an APAH project in 2020, Janopaul added, "and we look forward to helping to accelerate the development of affordable homes in Arlington with their support."


Corporate support for affordable housing initiatives from Amazon has also helped boost support at the state level, Janopaul added, which benefits everyone. "So I think it's a great partnership, that corporate leadership, and then that helps to motivate government leadership. They work in synchrony."


The Amazon effect ...


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