Amazon, local government work in tandem to create more affordable housing

Feb 14, 2023, 5:36 PM | Updated: 6:06 pm
amazon work from home...
The exterior of The Spheres is seen at the Amazon.com Inc. headquarters on November 14, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Amazon is committing $25 million to a new public-private housing fund for affordable homes near public transit across the state, according to an announcement yesterday.

The fund comes from a pilot program established by Washington Senate Bill 5466.

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“We believe that all people should have access to housing they can afford,” Alice Shobe, global director of Amazon in the Community, said in a prepared statement. “That’s why Amazon launched the $2 billion Housing Equity Fund in 2021 to create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in our headquarters locations.”

Amazon’s donation will be matched in state money allocated in Governor Inslee’s budget, creating a total of $50 million for a grant program administered by the Department of Commerce.

“We believe that the private and public sectors can work together to address this challenge,” Shobe said. “SB 5466 is an innovative and equitable way to accelerate the construction of affordable housing.”

In turn, this program will develop affordable housing in high-capacity transit corridors across the state, including Seattle and Bellevue — locations of Amazon’s headquarters.

This partnership is all part of a growing movement to create more affordable housing near public transit.

“It’s a pretty innovative and equitable way to accelerate the construction of affordable housing,” Rachael Lighty with Amazon Corporate Communications wrote in an email. “And we’ve supported this approach with a $100 million commitment to fund transit-oriented developments (TOD) in the Puget Sound region and more than $300 million toward TOD nationally.”

Amazon’s $2 billion Housing Equity Fund launched two years ago, with initial investments like $381.9 million spent in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve and create 1,300 affordable homes in Virginia. Amazon later gave $185.5 million to the King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes.

The bill would set minimum density standards next to high-capacity transit stations, which would be in place within 1,320 yards around light rail and bus rapid transit station areas.

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“TOD supports the community in many ways. It promotes racial and economic equity. It benefits low- to moderate-income families by accelerating the creation of affordable homes, and easy access to quality transit connects residents to jobs, education, and opportunities across the region.”

The bill awaits further action in the Senate Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs Committee, according to Senator Marko Liias.

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Amazon, local government work in tandem to create more affordable housing