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Amazon creates $2B Housing Equity Fund

Fund will help preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable homes in Washington State, Arlington, VA and Nashville, TN.

Online retail giant Amazon recently announced the launch of its $2 billion Housing Equity Fund. The fund will be used to help moderate to low-income families and individual in three Amazon locations, the Puget Sound region in Washington State, Arlington, VA and Nashville, TN. The $2 billion commitment will go towards preserving existing housing as well as create inclusive housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies and minority-led organizations.

“Amazon has a long-standing commitment to helping people in need, including the Mary’s Place family shelter we built inside our Puget Sound headquarters,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “The shelter now supports over 200 women and children experiencing homelessness every night. This new $2 billion Housing Equity Fund will create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in all three of our headquarters regions—Arlington, Puget Sound, and Nashville. It will also help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities.”

The initial $381.9 million investment will be made in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservatory to preserve and create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington. Meanwhile, $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants will to the King County Housing Authority to maintain 1,000 affordable homes in Washington.

Additional grants for minority-led organizations and public agencies

The Amazon Housing Equity Fund will also provide $125 million in cash grants for businesses, non-profits and minority-led organizations to assist in building a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis. Government partners that are not usually involved in affordable housing issues, like transit agencies and school districts, will also receive grants so they have the resources necessary to advance and create equal and affordable housing initiatives.

“In booming cities across the US, many apartment buildings affordable for teachers, healthcare providers, transit workers, and others with modest incomes are increasingly being redeveloped into luxury apartments, causing displacement and reducing housing options for working families,” Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell said in a statement. “Investments like those announced today by Amazon that help preserve these existing buildings and maintain moderate rent levels are critical to local efforts that promote economic inclusion and support the stability and economic mobility of moderate- and low-income families.”

CRE lends assist in Arlington’s part of the fund

The Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) is a non-profit organization that works to preserve homes so they remain affordable for moderate to low-income residents in the National Capital Region. The WHC received $42 million in grants from the Housing Equity Fund. The organization was able to put Amazon’s capital towards purchasing the Crystal House in Arlington in less than two months, which is fast for real estate transactions. WHC’s finance partner, the Washington Housing Initiative and Impact Pool, which developer JBG SMITH created, provided the expertise and an additional loan of $6.7 million.

“Amazon’s investment in affordable housing in Arlington is transformational—and couldn’t come at a better time,” Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board Chair said in a statement. “We are delighted to further strengthen our partnership with Amazon and to work together to serve our shared commitment to equity and economic opportunity for all of our residents.”

“Washington Housing Conservancy disrupts a market cycle that leads to displacement and offers the kind of stability that lets residents focus on their future, instead of the uncertainty of escalating rents,” Washington Housing Conservancy Executive Director Kimberly Driggins said. “With Amazon’s support, we are advancing our vision for inclusive, mixed-income communities of racially diverse middle-income and low-income families and individuals, to live near their employment and access high-performing schools and community amenities.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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