Amazon Tackles Affordable Housing Problem
Many workers, especially those in the Silicon Valley housing market, will tell you that finding a place to live at an affordable price is just about impossible. At one point the price of renting a room in a private home was reaching upwards of $2,000 a month. Workers were living in their cars, tents in parks and even taking shifts sleeping on someone’s couch at a about $150-200 A NIGHT! The whole situation was ridiculous and dehumanizing.
Just up the highway in the city of San Francisco the situation was not much better. Rents were among the highest in the world and the homelessness had become a municipal and health crises as homeless people had to use the bathroom wherever they could.
Something had to change. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to curtail the crises, unfortunately and probably only temporarily. Rents came down because everybody was leaving town and the state.
But Amazon, the world’s biggest and most efficient online retailer is looking at the problem with a promise to help. Focusing on cities where it employs a substantial number of people Amazon is coughing up over $2 billion to build and preserve 20,000 affordable homes. The cities where Amazon is working include the Seattle region, Nashville, Tennessee and Arlington, Virginia. Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund will offer below-market capital in low-cost loans, lines of credit and grants to support families making between 30 and 80 percent of the median income in each area. The fund will also give $125 million in grants to public agencies and minority-led organizations to boost inclusive affordable housing solutions.
Many technology companies have come to the realization that the problem of affordable housing maybe something that they created and, more importantly, something they can do something about.
Everybody knows that tech jobs are rather high paying with incredible benefits, bonuses and incentives. Where a major tech company sets up shop the cost of living usually skyrockets. More money brings in more money and costs more money to stay in the game. Its a vicious circle.
Amazon, like Apple, Facebook and Google, is focusing on the housing issue. All three have pledged at least $1 billion to tackle the affordable housing problem in California. Microsoft has also committed $750 million to ease the housing crisis in the Seattle area.
Amazon stepped up to help homeless services nonprofit Mary’s Place open a homeless shelter at its Seattle campus last year by pledging $100 million to the project. But at the same time the company came out forcefully against and defeated a Seattle tax proposal supporting affordable housing projects and the homeless population.
Again in 2018, Amazon planned to build new headquarters in Long Island City, New York. According to reports, the sites on which it was to build offices had been earmarked for residential development, which would have included around 1,500 affordable housing units. Amazon pulled out of the project amid a backlash from politicians and residents.