Amazon to spend $1.4B on affordable housing around corporate hubs

Housing Equity Fund aims to build 14K units in Seattle, Nashville and Virginia markets to spend $1.4B for 14K affordable homes around corporate hubs
Amazon's Andy Jassy and affordable housing (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty) will spend $1.4 billion to help pay for up to 14,000 affordable homes near corporate hubs in Seattle, Arlington, Va., and Nashville, Tenn.

The Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth expanded its commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing with new funding for its Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion initiative launched in 2021 to support 20,000 affordable homes in five years, the Seattle Times reported.

The latest round targets three cities where the company has the most employees.

This week, Amazon said it had surpassed its goal for the fund. Three and a half years after its launch, the firm has allocated $2.2 billion in loans and grants for 21,000 affordable housing units. 

Amazon expects the additional $1.4 billion will fund another 14,000 homes. 

Around its headquarters city of Seattle, Amazon and other tech firms have worked to help fund affordable housing projects, while also taking heat that their lofty corporate salaries have helped fuel a skyrocketing cost of living.

“We know housing is a really big challenge for a lot of people, especially in and around expensive metro areas,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said at a news conference. “We feel strongly we can help give back to our communities by helping preserve and create thousands of affordable homes.”  

Alice Shobe, the global director for Amazon Community Impact, said it’s not known how the new funds will be spent. That leaves room for Amazon to put the $1.4 billion — a mix of loans and grants — where it sees opportunities, she said.

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“We have a vision and broad direction of where we’re going, but real estate changes,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re staying flexible and in communication with community partners to make sure we’re responding to their needs.” 

The funding targets projects affordable for households earning from 30 percent to 80 percent of area median income, Shobe said. In King County, that would be $28,800 to $70,650 for one tenant, or $41,100 to $100,900 for a family of four.

The first round of funding mostly went toward the same income bracket, Shobe said, though Amazon also funded some projects for tenants earning below 30 percent of area median income, as well as a homeownership pilot program. 

Through a partnership with the National Housing Trust, Amazon is providing $40 million to support homeownership, according to a new report. A pilot project in Seattle will include 83 homes, and the firm hopes to expand it for 800 homeowners.

Of the 21,000 affordable housing units Amazon has helped fund, more than 8,600 are in the greater Seattle region, including 3,600 in Seattle and 1,400 in Bellevue. In the Puget Sound region, 62 percent of those homes serve households earning less than 60 percent area median income.

Another 9,400 units are near Washington, D.C., with another 3,000 in Nashville. The company didn’t know yet how the new round of funding would be split among its three corporate hubs, according to the Times.

— Dana Bartholomew

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