Amazon’s Housing Initiative Does Little for Low-Income Workers

Of the thousands of units Amazon has secured as part of its pledge to create affordable housing near its new headquarters, just over 200 are reserved for the lowest-income renters.

2 minute read

April 14, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

“Amazon sought to tamp down fears about displacing residents around its new Northern Virginia headquarters with a pledge last year to create and preserve thousands of affordable housing units in the D.C. area’s notoriously tight market.” But as Teo Armus reports, “For now, though, Amazon’s efforts will likely do little to move the needle for the region’s lowest-income residents, many of whom are already stretching their paychecks to make rent every month.” 

Armus writes that “Of more than 4,100 units secured so far, just 215 will be set aside for residents who make 50 percent or less of the area median income.” Housing advocates worry that rising costs will push workers farther out from job centers, creating additional traffic and emissions as they are forced to commute longer distances.

In an interview, Catherine Buell, director of Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, said the problem is too large for “even an Amazon” to solve on its own. “Amazon doesn’t own the affordable housing challenges, and governments are primarily responsible for managing the housing issues in their community. We’re here to be a partner.”

The article goes on to describe the difficult situations facing many workers in the region and similar efforts by other tech companies to create more affordable housing for their employees. “Some saw those efforts as a tacit recognition from these tech titans that they also needed to stabilize housing prices to attract their desired workforce. Homes in many parts of Silicon Valley have become prohibitively expensive even for well-paid software engineers, and Northern Virginia is not far behind.”

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