Amazon’s next office building in Seattle will include a homeless shelter, as it very well should.
The shelter will be used by Mary’s Place, which currently operates a shelter for families set up in an old Travelodge that is scheduled to be demolished to make way for two new Amazon buildings, The Seattle Times reports.
Mary’s Place will be allowed to occupy six stories (about 47,000 square feet) in one of the buildings, for free, to house dozens of families.
The Seattle Times says the move, Amazon’s largest philanthropic venture ever, is expected to cost the company tens of millions of dollars.
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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the decision by Amazon “huge.”
There’s no doubt about it, this is a very gracious philanthropic move — very much like the $30 million donation by Paul Allen last month. It is also an obvious step for an industry giant that has contributed to the rising cost of living in a city that is also dealing with a growing homeless problem.
In March, a survey commissioned by the city found that about 20 percent of the 1,050 people living on the street surveyed were in that situation because of housing affordability. By and large, the number of people surveyors spoke to were either living in the city or King County when they became homeless.
In April, the median home price in the city climbed to a staggering $722,000, up from about $500,000 three years ago. The median home prices in King County grew 15.7 percent to $625,000, The Seattle Times reports.
Ditto for rent prices, which continue to surge. Last month, Zillow reported renters pay about $600 more a month than approximately six years ago.
Those prices would have been unfathomable decades ago, before Seattle became a hub for tech workers. Now, technology workers are flocking to Seattle and the surrounding area, increasing the cost to live here. Earlier this year, GeekWire reported that the “boom will likely continue.”
“Seattle tech companies offer more jobs to candidates outside the city than to local candidates, and the average salary for candidates who relocate is $2,000 higher than for those from the regional market,” GeekWire reported.
In the meantime, city and county leaders have pushed proposals that would have taxpayers foot the bill for funding programs to address the homeless crisis and making the area more affordable. Mayor Murray said he wants the estimated 500 families with small children living on the streets at any time in the city housed by the end of this year.
Maybe Amazon will be the leader in a trend of tech giants curbing an issue they helped create.