Amazon’s move to Crystal City raises concern for working poor

WASHINGTON — Plans are on track for Amazon HQ2 to move into Crystal City, but advocates for working class communities of color are concerned that the project will displace homes in the nearby neighborhood of “Arlandria.”

Arlandria, north of Del Ray, is popularly known as Chirilagua in deference to its many Salvadoran-rooted residents and businesses.

“The likely impact of Amazon, maybe not in a year, but over time, is the displacement of this unique community and 3,000 working-class Latino and Latina residents,” said John Liss, co-executive director, New Virginia Majority.

The group says its study has found that Amazon’s most direct and adverse impact will be on the area’s low-income communities of color.

“They’re working poor, people who get up every day, probably have two-wage earners in the household,” said Liss, “Within four to seven years there will be pretty significant displacement and within seven to 10 years, barring a recession or something like that, there would be basically a complete elimination of affordable housing in this working class Latino neighborhood,” Liss said.

Both the city of Alexandria and Arlington County say they are committed to affordable housing in the years ahead.

Stephen Fuller, professor of public policy at George Mason University and expert on housing concedes that “some moderately priced apartments will get torn down,” but Fuller said it’s not just Amazon but the regular turn over housing that drives up housing prices.

“Arlington has more churn than any other jurisdiction other than D.C., in the area,” Fuller saidm adding that the demand for affordable housing is not new.

“It’s a historical issue since World War II,” Fuller said.

Fuller contends that the pending arrival of Amazon in Northern Virginia could have a positive impact on affordable housing.

“It’s given some impetus to efforts already underway regionwide to increase the supply and protect existing units,” Fuller said.

The New Virginia Majority said the state, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria along with the private sector must come up with a significant investment to create or preserve rental apartments or housing for the working class community.

“I would estimate that you probably need in the order of $150 million to $200 million of subsidies over 10 years to create long term affordable housing and preserve this unique asset,” Liss said.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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