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07/16/2021

Amazon to donate land for affordable housing

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Amazon is making a donation — valued at $40 million — to help create more than 550 new affordable homes. 

In January, Amazon announced that its Housing Equity Fund was providing $381.9 million in low-rate loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC)—a nonprofit organization that preserves homes in the Washington, D.C. area—to purchase the Crystal House apartment community. The retail giant said it will give an additional $40 million donation of vacant land to Arlington County to help over 550 new, affordable homes come to fruition at the 16-acre Crystal House property.

The funding will help WHC preserve the affordability of the apartment units to support moderate- to low-income families. 

“Amazon is committed to promoting economic inclusion for all families and fostering a thriving community in and around Arlington,” said Catherine Buell, head of community development, Amazon. “We are excited to build on our earlier work to preserve affordable housing at Crystal House in the heart of our new headquarters. This donation to the county brings us a step closer to achieving up to 1,300 total affordable homes at the site for families earning moderate- to low-incomes.”

Amazon is assigning its $40 million option right on the undeveloped land at the Crystal House apartments site to the county for the purpose of developing new affordable housing. The donation, once approved by the county board, makes it possible to achieve more than 550 affordable units for households earning 80% of area median income (AMI) and below. The agreement also provides flexibility to the county to develop a portion of the overall unit count at other properties in Arlington County, should they choose to do so. Construction is slated to begin in 2025 and the county will select the developer.

According to the Arlington County government, Arlington County has lost approximately 14,400 privately owned, affordably priced housing units since 2000. Between 2010 and 2018, the median home value climbed approximately 20% (after adjusting for inflation) and median rents climbed 11%, while median household incomes climbed only 7%.

In January 2021, Amazon announced the Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable housing units in Washington state’s Puget Sound region; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee. Through low-rate loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations, the Fund prioritizes the equitable and inclusive development of resource-rich communities with easy access to neighborhood services, amenities, and jobs.

Amazon’s first Housing Equity Fund commitment in Arlington, announced earlier this year, includes below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve and create affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington. In June, Amazon announced a new partnership with Metro as part of its $300 million total transit commitment for equitable transit-oriented affordable housing development in communities it calls home.

Since announcing its selection of Arlington, Virginia, as the site of its second headquarters, Amazon has supported the Washington, D.C. metro area by donating $3.9 million to nonprofit CodeVA to help expand computer science education to schools in underserved communities and distributing $1 million and thousands of devices to help provide basic necessities to students experiencing barriers to learning within Arlington Public Schools and Alexandria City Public Schools.

Amazon has also donated $1 million to kick-start emergency COVID-19 response efforts; paid local restaurants to prepare and deliver 10,000 lunches and dinners for first responders, front-line healthcare workers, and vulnerable neighbors at the height of COVID-19; funded delivery services to provide more than 50,000 meals—60,000 pounds of food—directly to the doorsteps of local seniors and those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19; donated $3 million to four legal service providers to support families with housing-related issues; and funded many more highly local donations.