Amazon to put $2B into affordable housing

Company will build in its hubs, where it has been said to drive up costs

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (Getty; iStock)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (Getty; iStock)

When Amazon planned to build a corporate headquarters in New York City, opponents claimed the influx of high-paying jobs would drive up housing prices, just as it had in the company’s base, Seattle. The argument helped defeat the project.

Two years later, Amazon is pledging to plow more than $2 billion into affordable housing where its employment hubs are, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Amazon will make the investments and donations over the next five years in Seattle, Nashville and Arlington, Virginia. The e-commerce giant has more than 75,000 workers in the Seattle area and plans to have at least 5,000 employees in the other two regions in the next five years.

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The money will come in the form of low-cost loans to preserve or build affordable housing, and in grants to public agencies and minority-led housing organizations.

“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 Journal. “Particularly as we’re expanding our corporate presence, we’re working to get ahead of the issue as much as we can.”

Other tech companies have made similar moves, including Alphabet’s Google, which has committed $1 billion toward Bay Area housing, and Apple, which is spending $2.5 billion for housing throughout California.

Housing advocates have said that while the contributions are welcome, they will not move the needle much and are not a substitute for policy reform by states and localities to curb housing costs.

[WSJ] — Sasha Jones