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Amazon gives $3 million to affordable housing efforts around Arlington

The retail giant singled out the Arlington Community Foundation because of its efforts toward housing stability and quality of life, an Amazon spokesman said. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, file)

Arlington County, Virginia’s housing market has been “smoking hot” since Amazon’s announcement that it will locate its HQ2 in Arlington.

But what might benefit homeowners and realtors may not necessarily help out renters and lower-income Arlington residents. So, in an effort to mitigate the housing impact on its new neighbors, Amazon announced a $3 million gift Tuesday to the Arlington Community Foundation.

“Over the last decade, housing prices in our region have steadily increased, leading to fewer housing options for all income levels and placing a disproportionate burden on our community’s lowest income residents,” said Jennifer Owens, the foundation’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Amazon’s generous investment comes at a critical time for our community and will help us respond in a nimble way to support those who need it most.”

In an interview with WTOP, Owens elaborated on how the assistance will be applied. It falls into two categories. The first is “more of a bricks-and-mortar, buildings-and-construction role, which would be investing in the creation of new units,” she said. The other application will be toward support services for those in affordable units.

“They might need assistance with some of the things that keep you in your house — making sure that when your car breaks down you have access to get that fixed,” Owens said, “[or] when you have an unexpected illness that you have the support you need to bridge the gap while you’re unable to make full rent payments.”

More than 9,000 households in Arlington exist on an annual income of $35,000 or less, according to a county needs analysis.

Amazon singled out the foundation because of its efforts toward housing stability and quality of life, said Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, in a statement.

“We believe this gift can offer additional housing and support services for our neighbors in need,” said Carney, who also served as White House press secretary from 2011 to 2014.

In addition to the $3 million gift to the foundation, the e-commerce giant launched an employee match program that benefits a list of charities around the D.C. area, such as the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and A-SPAN. Amazon will match employee donations one-for-one through Sept. 30.

Also benefiting from that employee match program will be various charities in Amazon’s birthplace of Washington state. A gift of $5 million was announced, too, for a similar organization in Seattle, which has had its own issues of balancing affordable housing with tech-fueled growth.

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