Did Amazon Really Just Create a Pop-up Homeless Shelter?
As cities around the U.S. scramble to figure out how to address the housing affordability crisis, one of them has now leaned on the benevolence of what some consider the least benevolent of them all.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, declared Seattle (specifically its South Lake Union district) its new home several years ago, and began moving employees in last year. The corporation’s planned campus, to consist of three towers and at least 20 other office buildings, will bring more than 20,000 jobs to Seattle. Amazon’s presence has already propelled smaller tech startups (and big tech company, Google) to set up shop, and the buying and building frenzy that continues to ensue caused the mayor to declare a “housing state of emergency” last year in what is now the country's 4th-fastest growing city.
Amazon's move to this once-desolate neighborhood in Seattle has been the catalyst for the largest number of residential permit applications since 1984, according to The New York Times, and its masses of employees have attracted food trucks and other small business activity in and around the district.
Ironically, Seattle’s attractiveness to the tech sector is in part due to the fact that housing in the Bay Area—the nation’s largest tech hub—has become too pricey, and more and more people in the field are fleeing to what they consider more affordable housing in Seattle.
The relativity of “affordable” comes into play, as the city was not overflowing with housing to begin with, and now the influx of people with deeper pockets has caused many low- to moderate-income city residents to feel the pressure of rising rents, and the city to face a surging homeless population. A January 2016 homeless count in Seattle and Kings counties reported 4,505 individuals living unsheltered, including about 400 families.