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Amazon chips in over $1B to support Puget Sound affordable housing efforts

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(The Center Square) – Amazon announced an additional $1.4 billion to its affordable housing grant program as large businesses chip in to help solve the Puget Sound’s housing crisis.

Dozens of representatives of Amazon, affordable housing organizations and media members attended a Tuesday press conference regarding the company’s Housing Equity Fund at the Pacific Tower near the Seattle Chinatown-International District. This included Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who touted the program’s initial success since it started in 2021.

“We know housing is a really big challenge for a lot of people, especially in and around expensive metro areas and we feel strongly that we can help give back to our communities by helping preserve and create thousands of affordable homes,” Jassy said at the press conference.

Jassy announced that Amazon has exceeded its original goal of creating and preserving 20,000 affordable homes across three of its hometown communities within five years. The company reached its goal two years early by providing $2.2 billion to create and preserve more than 21,000 affordable housing units.

The newly announced $1.4 billion brings the total funding for the Amazon Housing Equity Fund to more than $3.6 billion to fund more than 35,000 affordable homes across Amazon’s hometown communities in the Puget Sound region, as well as communities in the Arlington, Va./National Capital region; and Nashville, Tenn.

For the Puget Sound Region, homelessness throughout King, Pierce and Snohomish counties total around 20,200 people, according to data. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority, or KCRHA, works on behalf of King County and Seattle to address the region’s homelessness crisis. The agency utilizes a housing-first strategy to solve the issue.

According to Amazon, it has funded projects creating over 8,600 affordable housing units in the Puget Sound region since 2021 through a committed $670 million

In the City of Bellevue alone, where the median household income is $153,779, the program helped increase affordable housing stock by 30%, according to the company.

“Housing solves homelessness so increasing the availability of affordable housing In the region is a benefit to the entire community,” KCRHA told The Center Square in an email. “KCRHA does not build housing but we support efforts from the public and private sectors to provide much needed affordable options for residents.”

Amazon has provided grants to western Washington organizations including El Centro de la Raza and Mary’s Place, which are also funded by KCRHA.

The Housing Equity Fund supports affordable housing developments with a focus on households that earn 30% to 80% of the area median income.

“Private, philanthropic investments like the Amazon Housing Equity Fund are an essential part of the solution to creating more affordable homes and addressing the housing crisis in Seattle,” Seattle Office of Housing Communications Manager Nona Raybern told The Center Square. “Working in partnership with city, state, and federal dollars, these loans and grants will help us ensure that public investments in new homes and the long-term health and stability of our affordable housing sector are leveraged for maximum impact.”

Raybern pointed to the city’s “One Seattle Comprehensive Plan,” in which the city estimates at least 112,000 new units of housing will be needed over the next 25 years

The City of Seattle successfully had a housing levy approved by voters last year with generated funding going towards the development of more than 3,100 new affordable housing homes.

For 2024, the tax levy rate is 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $383 a year for the median Seattle homeowner.

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