Amazon provides $23 million for affordable housing in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon announced Thursday that it will provide $23 million to help minority-led organizations build or preserve more than 500 new affordable homes in Seattle — the latest spending by a technology company to mitigate a serious housing crisis that the industry has helped to create .

The commitment comes from Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion initiative launched in January 2021. The fund has so far invested more than $1.2 billion to create or preserve more than 8,000 affordable homes in three regions where the company has offices: the Puget Sound in Washington. State; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee.

“When our city’s business and private partners step up, as Amazon is doing through this significant investment, we can accelerate progress in addressing tough challenges like housing affordability,” said the Mayor of Seattle, Bruce Harrell, in a press release announcing the investment.

The high wages tech companies pay have helped drive up housing costs in the cities where they operate, driving many people, including teachers, nurses, firefighters and restaurant workers, out of the communities where they operate. working.

The industry has long been criticized for not solving this problem, but in recent years tech giants have made great strides. In 2019, Apple committed $2.5 billion for affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area; Google spent $1 billion; Microsoft said it would provide $750 million in housing subsidies and investments in the Puget Sound area; and Facebook, now Meta, said it would spend $1 billion to help solve California’s housing crisis by creating up to 20,000 new affordable homes.

The Amazon Housing Equity Fund provides grants and low-rate loans to housing providers who create or preserve affordable housing, with a focus on supporting households earning 30% to 80% of an area’s median income .

The new investments are the fund’s first in Seattle proper, although it has previously invested in housing elsewhere in the area, including near the SeaTac and Bellevue transit stations.

Catherine Buell, director of the fund, noted that the housing crisis disproportionately affects people of color. This was one of the reasons it was important to work with nonprofits and real estate organizations led by Black, Asian, and Hispanic partners.

Amazon is working with three organizations — the Mount Baker Housing Authority, El Centro de la Raza and Gardner Global — on four housing projects, totaling 568 units in South Seattle neighborhoods that have large populations of people of color and have rapidly gentrified or are at risk of it.

Three of the four affected projects will be affordable for those earning up to 60% of the area’s median income — that’s $54,350 for a single person or $77,650 for a family of four, according to the Seattle Office of Housing. The fourth, a new black-owned Gardner Global apartment building with 122 units, mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, will serve those earning up to 80% of the area’s median income, or $66,750 for a single person.

In the press release announcing the investments, David Tan, executive director of the Mount Baker Housing Authority, called the funding a “game changer”.

“The Fund is an affordable, patient source of capital that gives developers much-needed flexibility to fund our projects,” Tan said.

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