The company’s gift will fund at least 1,300 affordable apartments in Arlington over the next five years.

Amazon has announced the creation of a new $2-billion fund to help create affordable housing in markets it operates in, including Arlington, Virginia. The company has started with 1,300 apartment homes in Arlington, its newly minted HQ2. Amazon won’t be building the homes, but will supply money to public agencies and minority organizations that will offer below-market loans and grants to developers and moderate and low-income families. The fund will also supply funding for the  Seattle, Washington, and Nashville, Tennessee, areas.

Like many urban centers, Arlington County has lost more than 14,000 affordable housing units in the past 20 years, pushing families farther and farther from their places of work.

“In booming cities across the U.S., many apartment buildings affordable for teachers, healthcare providers, transit workers, and others with modest incomes are increasingly being redeveloped into luxury apartments, causing displacement and reducing housing options for working families,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, President, Urban Institute.

Amazon’s first project in Arlington is Crystal House. The building was purchased for $381.9 million in cooperation with the Washington Housing Conservancy, a local non-profit that preserves housing for low to moderate-income families. Through attrition, rents in the buildings will be lowered and units will be offered to families earning less than 80 percent of the average median income. The conversions will continue for the next five years and the apartments will remain at that level for 99 years.

“Washington Housing Conservancy disrupts a market cycle that leads to displacement and offers the kind of stability that lets residents focus on their future, instead of the uncertainty of escalating rents,” said Kimberly Driggins, Executive Director, Washington Housing Conservancy. “With Amazon’s support, we are advancing our vision for inclusive, mixed-income communities of racially diverse middle-income and low-income families and individuals, to live near their employment and access high-performing schools and community amenities.”

In addition to directly funding housing, Amazon will also help by providing funds and grants for legal services and shelters as well as services parallel to affordable housing like transit and school services. Amazon’s headquarters is currently under construction in Crystal City and will include 2.1 million square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of retail, and an acre of open public space.

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