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Amazon increases its affordable housing fund by $1.4B in Seattle and other areas

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Amazon CEO Andy Jassy recently announced that the company is adding $1.4 billion to its Housing Equity Fund, bringing the total commitment to affordable housing to more than $3.6 billion. This funding will create an additional 14,000 housing units in regions that include Seattle, Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va. The three Amazon hubs have all experienced challenges in meeting housing needs for lower-income residents due to the influx of high-paying tech jobs. Jassy highlighted the importance of affordable housing in these communities, where rising rents have outpaced salaries, making it difficult for essential workers like teachers, nurses, and first responders to live near their jobs.

The Housing Equity Fund was launched with a $2 billion pledge in January 2021 and has supported an increase in the affordable housing inventory through below-market loans and grants to public agencies, housing partners, and minority-led organizations. Amazon leaders shared that they have exceeded their original funding and housing goals by contributing $2.2 billion and providing more than 21,000 affordable homes. The focus is on households earning 30% to 80% of the area median income, individuals who often don’t qualify for subsidies but struggle to keep up with escalating housing costs.

Local government officials, including Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson, expressed gratitude for Amazon’s support and emphasized the positive impact that affordable housing initiatives will have on the community. Organizations working to deploy more housing, such as Great Expectations, an affordable housing development company in Seattle, also praised Amazon for providing essential support to the sector. The Amazon fund is loaning money at reduced rates, enabling projects to move forward and contributing to a 30% increase in affordable housing stock in Bellevue, Wash.

The relationships between Amazon and local government have not always been easy, with disagreements over the company’s responsibility in addressing the region’s housing crisis. In 2019, Microsoft announced $500 million in support for affordable housing efforts in the Seattle area, sparking a movement among tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook to make significant pledges to fund housing development in their communities. Amazon reported revenue of $574.8 billion last year, and while relations with Seattle leadership were strained at times, the company remains committed to addressing housing shortages in the region.

Despite recent layoffs and slowing growth in the tech sector, Amazon and Microsoft have continued to invest in affordable housing initiatives. Amazon has funded over 8,600 units in the Seattle area, and efforts from Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech companies, alongside government agencies and non-profit developers, have increased the housing inventory. However, the housing crisis is far from over, with Seattle needing more than 70,000 new low- and middle-income housing units in the coming two decades. Efforts by companies like Amazon to leverage their expertise, such as AI, to cut costs and gain efficiencies in developing new housing could help address the ongoing challenges in the housing industry.

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