Amazon said Wednesday that it is launching a $2 billion housing equity fund to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable housing units in Washington state’s Puget Sound region; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville—three areas where the company has or expects to have at least 5,000 employees each in the coming years.
The fund aims to preserve existing housing and create inclusive housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies and minority-led organizations.
The housing effort reflects the online retailing giant’s commitment to affordable housing and seeks to ensure that moderate- to low-income families can afford housing in resource-rich communities with easy access to neighborhood services, amenities and jobs.
The first investments include $381.9 million in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve and create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington and $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes in Washington, with additional investments to come in all three regions.
Arlington County has lost about 14,400 privately owned affordably priced housing units since 2000. Between 2010 and 2018, the median home value climbed approximately 20% (after adjusting for inflation) and median rents climbed 11%, while median household incomes climbed only 7%.
“Amazon’s investment in affordable housing in Arlington is transformational—and couldn’t come at a better time,” said Matt de Ferranti, chairman of the Arlington County Board. “We are delighted to further strengthen our partnership with Amazon and to work together to serve our shared commitment to equity and economic opportunity for all of our residents.”
Amazon is providing below-market capital—in the form of loans, lines of credit and grants—to preserve and create 20,000 homes affordable for moderate- to low-income families in the Puget Sound region, Arlington and Nashville. In each of these areas, Amazon is targeting households making between 30% to 80% of the area’s median income.
In the Washington, D.C. metro area, this translates to a household of four earning less than $79,600 a year. In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, this translates to a household of four earning less than $95,250 a year.
“Amazon has a long-standing commitment to helping people in need, including the Mary’s Place family shelter we built inside our Puget Sound headquarters,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “The shelter now supports over 200 women and children experiencing homelessness every night. This new $2 billion housing equity fund will create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in all three of our headquarters regions—Arlington, Puget Sound, and Nashville. It will also help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities.”
Amazon’s housing equity fund will provide an additional $125 million in cash grants to businesses, nonprofits and minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color.
The fund will also give grants to government partners not traditionally involved in affordable housing issues, such as transit agencies and school districts, to provide them with resources to advance and create equitable and affordable housing initiatives.
Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, praised Amazon’s housing commitment.
“In booming cities across the U.S., many apartment buildings affordable for teachers, healthcare providers, transit workers and others with modest incomes are increasingly being redeveloped into luxury apartments, causing displacement and reducing housing options for working families,” she said. “Investments like those announced today by Amazon that help preserve these existing buildings and maintain moderate rent levels are critical to local efforts that promote economic inclusion and support the stability and economic mobility of moderate- and low-income families.”