Amazon donates $3 million to support affordable housing in Arlington
By Keya Vakil
June 11, 2019

Amazon will donate $3 million to the Arlington Community Foundation, a non-profit that supports affordable housing and fights homelessness, the company announced on Tuesday.

The donation comes as housing prices are surging in Arlington and advocates and lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va), have called on Amazon to do more to help solve the affordable housing issue.

Jennifer Owens, president and chief executive of the Arlington Community Foundation, praised the donation, calling it a “significant investment” in a community she says has lost nearly 90% of its market affordable housing stock since 2000.

Indeed, housing affordability and availability were issues long before Amazon announced it would build its second headquarters in Crystal City, but local residents and advocates are worried that the company will only exacerbate the issues, like they did in Seattle.

The company plans to hire 25,000 employees over the next 10 to 12 years with an average annual salary of at least $150,000, according to the Washington Post.

This has lower-income residents in the area worried that rent and housing prices will skyrocket, forcing them out of the region.

Amazon has tried to reassure residents that the company is able to plan for growth in Arlington in a way that it couldn’t in Seattle, where the retail giant has been blamed for driving up housing costs. Aware of the issues it’s created in the Emerald City, Amazon also made a $5 million donation to Plymouth Housing, a Seattle-based nonprofit.

“Homelessness and affordable housing are real concerns in Seattle and the Washington, DC region,” said Jay Carney, SVP, Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon. “As neighbors in both, we made these donations to Plymouth Housing and the Arlington Community Foundation because of their work and progress on housing stability and helping families improve their quality of life.”

The retail giant will also match employee donations up to $5 million through September 30, 2019 to select charities that address housing and homelessness in the Arlington and Seattle areas.

While $3 million will certainly help the Arlington area, it’s still only a drop in the bucket for a region that needs tens of thousands of new affordable units, according to local governments and housing analysts.

If the full donation is used to subsidize affordable housing costs and make units affordable for lower-income residents, it would still only benefit an estimated 26 households, according to Owens.

The Washington Post reports that instead of only subsidizing costs of new housing units, Amazon’s donation could also be used to pay for services for homeless people or those who can’t afford their rent.

Either way, the donation is unlikely to change the bigger picture in Arlington. When asked by the Washington Post if the company’s $3 million donation was enough given the urgent need for affordable housing in Arlington, Owens said, “I don’t think it would be fair to say that anybody in our community is doing enough.”

And while the donation is certainly generous, Amazon’s profit in 2018 was $11.2 billion, meaning the $3 million donation is just .00027% of the company’s profit.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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