- Amazon has pledged $20 million for affordable housing in Arlington County, VA as part of negotiations over plans for its new headquarters building in greater Washington, DC.
- The pledge would be the single largest injection of cash to the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is used to create units for low-income residents. According to Arlington County, the funding could support construction of 235 new affordable units.
- As part of its HQ2 plans, Amazon will invest $2.5 billion in new office structures in Pentagon City and Crystal City over the next decade and plans to create 25,000 jobs. Amazon is seeking permission to increase the size of its planned office towers, among other changes, according to planning documents.
While Amazon has promised to bring new jobs, economic development and tax revenue to Virginia, there has also been widespread concern from some residents that the company's new headquarters will raise housing prices and distort the market. Similar concerns dogged the second planned headquarters in Queens, which Amazon ultimately withdrew.
Tech-heavy cities, like San Francisco and Seattle, have seen housing prices skyrocket and supply drop as more people move in. Amazon's pledge is the latest in a trend of tech companies trying to make up for their impact through direct donations. Last month, Apple pledged $2.5 billion to address housing affordability in California. Google and Facebook have each pledged $1 billion in land, grants and loans, and Amazon donated $8 million to housing groups in Seattle and Virginia.
Matt Mattauszek, principal planner for Crystal City, told Smart Cities Dive that the "substantial" contribution from Amazon would go a long way to meet the county's affordability goals, but recognized that more sustainable funding is needed. Some have criticized the tech companies' pledges as a Band-Aid on a systemic problem in metropolises around the country, including outside of Washington.
"The existing tools we have are clearly not getting us to our goals of a wide range of residential units at varied income levels," Mattauszek said. "We're very pleased with the fact that we're able to devote this much money to affordable housing with one project, but we also realize it's a continued effort we're going to face. No one developer is going to be able to solve a regional issue like this."
In addition to the affordable housing money, Mattauszek said Amazon has also committed to funding other neighborhood improvements, including park space near its office buildings, transportation improvements, new bike-share stations and utility undergrounding, with an estimated value of $14 million.