With HQ2, Amazon will create jobs, but it aims to help grow region’s affordable housing too

HQ2 at Metropolitan Park in Arlington, Virginia, is more than just a newly developed headquarters for Amazon. It’s also emblematic of a developing bond between the company and the local community.

A central part of that bond is a partnership between the Amazon Housing Equity Fund and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

The Housing Equity Fund is Amazon’s more than $2 billion commitment to help create and preserve affordable housing in areas where the company has a major presence. Close to $1 billion of the fund is targeted for impact in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“We have had an affordable housing crisis in Arlington and this region for decades,” said Carmen Romero, president and CEO of APAH. “When Amazon came to this area there was a real opportunity to lean into partnership and innovation. The housing equity fund is an accelerant. We are now able to make projects happen that without Amazon’s involvement would take 10 years to make happen.”

Addressing affordable housing long term

In Arlington County alone, Amazon’s preservation efforts have increased the supply of long-term multifamily units by 22%. In the case of the plan being developed in Arlington, long term is defined as 99 years. In addition, Amazon has focused heavily on increasing access to affordable homes near essential services — in particular, public transit.

“Amazon’s commitment to affordable housing is tied to one of our leadership principles: that success and scale bring broad responsibility,” said Senthil Sankaran, principal of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “We knew we wanted to make lasting change in this region. We view this as an opportunity to create access to affordable housing by collaborating with an amazing network of both public and private entities, minority-led organizations and other nonprofits already doing great work and whose work just needs to be amplified.”

Furthermore, Amazon wants to play an active role in the quest for affordable housing because the D.C. metropolitan area is a desirable region, which contributes to its high cost of living, he said. Given the limited land available and the area’s zoning challenges, Amazon stepped in to help drive change, or as Sankaran said, “to truly be a member of this community.”

APAH not only serves Arlington but has expanded to help create affordable housing in D.C., Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia, and Montgomery County in Maryland.

Tackling a need in Tysons

An estimated 100,000 workers surge the daily population in Tyson’s Corner, a major job center in northern Virginia. Yet, there has been hardly any affordable housing in the surrounding area, Romero pointed out. But by partnering with Amazon, APAH is beginning to address that need, she said.

Dominion Square, which APAH started working on with Fairfax County, will be the first 100% affordable, multifamily development in the Tyson’s Corner area. It will include 500-plus units within two blocks of the Tysons Metro Station and in a district with high-performing schools.

Amazon provided a $55 million, below-market rate loan that will dramatically decrease the project completion timeframe for the project.

“Amazon came to this area and basically said, “We are a big employer. We believe in inclusive growth. And affordable housing is important to us,’ Romero” said. “Amazon has given us long term the platform to go to all jurisdictions to have more conversations about affordable housing. Hopefully, other companies will follow Amazon’s lead and see the impact a housing fund can have on their workers and this region.”

Read more about Amazon initiatives to become part of the community in and around its new headquarters.

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