Six months after announcing a more than $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to invest in affordable housing in three regions where Amazon operates, the e-commerce giant has committed more than $300 million toward transit-oriented developments that will create about 3,000 new units of affordable units in those communities.
Amazon announced it will work closely with public transit agencies to fund developments on either surplus land owned by the agencies or privately owned land near active transit corridors to generate new affordable homes as soon as 2025.
The investments will include $125 million in below-market loans to developers working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) to create more than 1,000 homes in the Washington, D.C., area; $100 million in below-market loans to developers working with Sound Transit to accelerate creation of up to 1,200 homes in Washington state’s Puget Sound region; and $75 million to developers to create an estimated 800 homes on private land in Nashville, Tenn., near WeGo transit corridors.
The goal is to preserve and create affordable housing options for moderate- to low-income families to live near and benefit from public transportation as part of a transit-oriented development (TOD) program. Jay Carney, an Amazon senior vice president, said in a prepared statement transportation and housing costs account for a significant portion of the average family’s expenses. Amazon hopes moderate- and low-income families in the Puget Sound, Nashville and Arlington regions will be able to reduce their expenditures on housing while gaining access to easy transit to jobs and amenities and build more inclusive communities.
When Amazon announced the housing fund in January, the goal was to create and preserve more than 20,000 affordable homes in those three regions where the company has or expects to have at least 5,000 employees over the coming years.
In addition to the sprawling Seattle headquarters, Amazon is building its HQ2 in Arlington, Va., and an operations center in Nashville. The first investment of more than $567 million was earmarked for up to 2,300 affordable apartments in Arlington and the Puget Sound.
The sum included $381.9 million in loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) to preserve and create as many as 1,300 units at Crystal House in Arlington, which was purchased for $337 million in a deal announced in January. It also included $185.5 million in loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 homes in Bellevue, Wash.
In the largest of the three TOD plans, Amazon is working with Metro, which operates the Washington, D.C., area’s rail, bus and paratransit service to create 1,000 new affordable units on Metro-owned properties at station throughout the region over the next five years. A total of $25 million of the $125 million is being set aside to fund development by minority developers. The below-market capital will be available only to developers who have joint development agreements with Metro.
The Puget Sound partnership with Sound Transit calls for the creation of up to 1,200 new affordable units on surplus properties near light rail stations across the region. The first $25 million will fund pre-development activities like site due diligence, engineering and permitting. The remaining $75 million will support the direct creation and construction of new affordable housing, which is expected to begin within five years.
Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said in a prepared statement the Puget Sound region is facing an affordable housing crisis and Sound Transit is expanding into communities that are increasingly becoming less and less affordable for working families. Sound Transit’s TOD program has built, is constructing or designing more than 1,500 affordable units on surplus property. Amazon’s investment will expedite Sound Transit’s pre-development efforts by providing early-stage funding as well as permanent financing for new housing units.
In Nashville, Amazon will choose development partners to create approximately 800 affordable housing units on privately owned land within a half-mile of WeGo transit corridors over the next five years. WeGo operates bus and paratransit services, serving approximately 30,000 riders daily. The focus will be on prioritizing opportunities to invest in minority-led organizations and racially and economically diverse communities near the transit stops.