Many tech hubs across the United States are seeing housing costs skyrocket faster than wages can rise. As a result, many low- to middle-income workers are being pushed out while high-salary tech workers take their place. But this trend is unsustainable, which is why Amazon is doing something about it.
The Housing Equity Fund will partner with government and affordable housing organizations to provide below-market-rate homes to people. To start, Amazon is focusing its efforts in the three key locations: Nashville, Arlington, Virginia, and the Puget Sound region. These regions were chosen because Amazon employs or expects to employ at least 5,000 people in each of these areas.
In Washington state, Amazon is partnering with King County Housing Authority and providing it with an initial $161.5 million loan and $24 million in grants. This will help the KCHA acquire new homes in order to maintain them as affordable housing units. The KCHA recently acquired 470 homes across three properties in the region: the Pinewood Village, Hampton Greens and the Illahee Apartments.
These homes will be rented at a below-market rate for people making less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, which translates to less than $95,250 a year for a family of four. Meanwhile, $4 million of this money will go toward preserving affordable housing options for extremely low-income households (defined as households earning 30 percent or less than the area’s median income).
“Acquiring these properties in Bellevue to ensure that they stay affordable is critical to preserving the economic diversity of this area,” KCHA executive director Stephen Norman, said in a statement. “We are excited to work with Amazon to preserve affordable housing options close to jobs, transit and schools. Our whole region thrives when a range of housing options is available to all.”
Investments like these will allow Amazon to preserve or create over 20,000 affordable housing units total across its three regions.
Since high housing prices disproportionately affect communities of color, Amazon will also be giving $125 million in cash grants from its Home Equity Fund to businesses, nonprofits and minority-led organizations that are looking to address the issue. Additional grants will be given out to other municipal programs — like school districts and transit agencies — in order to further impact affected communities.
Amazon has made several other commitments to providing affordable living options, including opening up a homeless shelter in its Seattle HQ. Other Seattle tech companies are taking similar steps to combat the housing problem, including Microsoft, which recently set aside $65 million from its initial $750 million commitment to provide affordable housing.
“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. The shelter now supports over 200 women and children experiencing homelessness every night,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “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.”