Amazon's HQ2 threatens to displace up to 10,000 Latinx residents

By Keya Vakil

July 22, 2019

The impending arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia has caused local housing prices to increase by 17%, spurring fears of displacement and an affordable housing crisis. Now, a new report suggests that Latinx residents in Arlandria, a predominantly lower-income, Latinx community just 2 miles from HQ2, are at risk of being priced out of their neighborhood. 

The report, from Tenants and Workers United, a non-profit, non-partisan community group, and George Washington University, surveyed 285 Arlandria families renting units among the 3100 “moderately-priced” apartments in the Arlandria neighborhood.

The Arlandria Income and Population Survey, which was first reported on by Axios, found that nearly 35% of households surveyed earn less than $28,000 per year. And while the median income in the Washington Metro Region is $117,200, 95% of respondent households in Arlandria earn less than 40% of the D.C. area’s median income.

This disparity means that 1 in 2 households surveyed already spend more than 50% of their yearly income on rent.

As housing prices soar, these renters are unlikely to be able to afford significant rent increases, and as many as 10,000 Latinx residents are at risk of displacement, according to an Axios analysis.

Underscoring the issue is that Latinx residents of Arlandria have deep roots in the area, with half of respondents saying they had lived in Arlandria for over 12 years. Indeed, the area has long been predominantly Latinx, as the 2000 U.S. Census found that 62.3% of residents were Hispanic.

That could change, however, if Amazon continues to upend the region’s housing market. 

Northern Virginia’s housing issues predate Amazon, but since Arlington County and the state of Virginia gave Amazon nearly $800 million in incentives to bring their HQ2 to Virginia, lawmakers have come under renewed fire for falling short on the housing front.

In an emailed statement, Jon Liss, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a progressive political group affiliated with Tenants and Workers United, said Virginia’s governor and the General Assembly “created this tsunami by offering hundreds of millions to attract Amazon…It is incumbent upon state officials to come up with plans and funding to mitigate the damage.”

Local and state leaders have indicated they want to head off any housing crisis caused by Amazon, but so far, they’ve taken minor measures to do so. 

Arlington County’s budget for fiscal year 2020 includes $16 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, but that’s only a $1.7 million increase from 2019. The County also allocated $9.3 million for Housing Grants, a rental subsidy program, marking a $600,000 increase from 2019.

On the state level, the Virginia General Assembly increased funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund from $5.5 million to $9.5 million. 

Arlington and Alexandria also plan to dedicate $150 million for affordable housing over the next decade and Amazon says its committed to preventing the same kind of housing crisis that it caused in Seattle from happening in Arlington. The company has donated $3 million to the Arlington Community Foundation, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing and homelessness in the region, and plans to match employee contributions to housing-focused organizations up to $5 million. 

But given the scope of the problem, affordable housing advocates and Arlandria residents say it’s not enough and that elected officials must do more.

The researchers behind the Arlandria Income and Population Survey suggest a way forward, including creating more housing programs for households that earn less than 40% of the AMI and preserving the existing 3,100 moderately priced apartments in Arlandria.

  • 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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