The Amazon Housing Equity Fund is investing $23 million and working with local nonprofits and real estate development organizations, all led by people of color, to increase Seattle’s affordable housing stock.
Amazon is supporting the creation and preservation of more than 568 affordable homes in Seattle through a $23 million commitment to real estate development organizations led by Black, Hispanic, and Asian business leaders. These new homes will be the first in Seattle supported by the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. Since launching in January 2021, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund has committed more than $360 million to create and preserve more than 3,400 affordable homes in the Puget Sound region alone.
"Seattle has seen us grow and mature as a company—and we want to do well by doing good. We are committed to helping address the housing crisis in the Puget Sound region, which is disproportionally affecting communities of color," said Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. "In supporting these projects, we are focusing on equity by not only increasing access to affordable housing but also being intentional about whom we select as development partners. Diverse perspectives are essential to help create truly inclusive and thriving communities."
Amazon is working with three housing partners—the Mount Baker Housing Authority (MBHA), El Centro de la Raza (ECDLR), and Gardner Global—to fund housing projects and related programs across Seattle. The effort supports Seattle Mayor, Bruce Harrell’s, “One Seattle” initiative to address homelessness and help create a thriving, innovative, and equitable city.
“When our city's businesses and private partners step up, like Amazon is doing through this significant investment, we can accelerate progress addressing difficult challenges like housing affordability,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This effort, in collaboration with the community-driven and diverse leadership at Mount Baker Housing Authority, El Centro de la Raza, and Gardner Global, means building more units to bolster the city’s stock of affordable housing.”
Over the past 17 months, Amazon has invested more than $500 million with organizations led or owned by people of color to support affordable housing across all three of its hometown communities—Washington state’s Puget Sound region, the Arlington, Virginia, region, and Nashville, Tennessee. Building on this investment, Amazon is now working with three housing partners in Seattle:
Mount Baker Housing Association is a community-based organization intent on improving lives and strengthening communities in southeast Seattle by creating quality, affordable housing and supporting residents. The organization has partnered with Amazon, leveraging low-rate loans totaling $15.2 million from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund to support two affordable apartment developments:
- Grand Street Commons: 204 newly constructed affordable apartment homes in southeast Seattle, just two blocks from the future Judkins Park light rail station. The population of this neighborhood is 67.75% people of color and has been identified as high risk of displacement. The apartment units will remain affordable to tenants at or below 60% of area median income (AMI). Grand Street Commons will be a family-oriented community with units ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes. The project includes 4,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and commercial space--such as dedicated space for rotating arts and cultural exhibits hosted by the Cultural Space Agency--and fronts on an enhanced public plaza and woonerf—or living street—to encourage community events and festivals. The building includes amenities such as a resident lounge, community room, fitness center, family-oriented office and homework area, courtyard, common laundry, bicycle storage, and parking. These shared spaces support the robust MBHA Resident Services program, which offers support services and referrals to build community in and across the MBHA properties. Among the sustainable features are a green roof and solar panels. Amazon is funding a $7.5 million low-rate loan to MBHA to enable construction of the property to commence and to maintain affordability for 99 years. The property is anticipated to be completed and ready for resident occupancy by the summer of 2024.
- Mount Baker Village: 155 preserved apartment homes that will guarantee affordability at or below 60% of AMI. This complex is located in the Mount Baker/Columbia City area and is a few blocks from the Sound Transit Mount Baker Station. Mount Baker Village will offer a resident services program that provides financial assistance, health resources, life skills and education, family and youth services, and community cultural events. Amazon is funding a $7.7 million low-rate loan to MBHA to provide enhancements to the complex’s facilities, preserve affordability for 99 years, enhance resident services, and accelerate MBHA’s delivery of much needed affordable units.
The Fund supports development by organizations led by—and working on behalf of—people of color and other marginalized communities. This aspect is a critical part of supporting housing equity.
Executive Director of Mount Baker Housing
El Centro de la Raza is an organization grounded in the Latino community of Washington state. The organization has teamed up with Amazon to develop affordable homes in the predominantly Spanish-speaking Columbia City neighborhood, which has been identified as a high-risk community for the residential displacement of low-income and working families:
- El Centro Columbia City: 87 units for families earning between 30% and 60% AMI for 99 years. The complex will feature an accredited bilingual child development center, and church space for a small community congregation called Church of Hope. The transit-oriented development--a half-mile from the Columbia City Light Rail Station, offers mixed-use affordable housing in an area currently experiencing residential displacement pressure. Amazon is providing a $3.5 million grant to support the development of this housing complex, which should be completed and ready for resident occupancy by summer 2024.
Gardner Global is a Black-owned Seattle-based real estate development organization working with Amazon to develop a new construction apartment building. This organization is led by Jaebadiah Gardner, a fellow of the LISC-Puget Sound Accelerator Program, which is a two-year, part-time professional development program that aims to foster the careers of emerging real estate developers of color. The complex will be built on the former site of an African American Baptist church with strong ties to the community in eastern Seattle:
- Calvary 1, named in homage to the location’s legacy, will include 122 units in a new apartment building. The complex will primarily offer studio and one-bedroom apartments targeting residents earning 80% AMI and lower. Amazon is providing Gardner Global a $4.5 million grant to support the project. The housing development should be completed and ready for resident occupancy by the winter of 2025.
“The Amazon Housing Equity Fund is a game-changer for those of us working to provide affordable housing in our respective communities. The Fund is a source of affordable, patient capital that gives developers much-needed flexibility in financing our projects,” said David Tan, executive director of Mount Baker Housing. “In addition, the Fund supports development by organizations led by and working on behalf of people of color and other marginalized communities. This aspect is a critical part of supporting housing equity.”
The Amazon Housing Equity Fund increases housing options for moderate- to low-income earners by offering grants and low-rate loans to housing providers that create or preserve affordable homes where affordability may have otherwise been lost to commercial-rate developers. The Fund places emphasis on supporting households earning 30% to 80% of AMI, including people who serve their communities as first responders, teachers, service industry employees, and other important professions. Residents often don’t qualify for subsidies, but their wages haven’t kept pace with escalating rents. For each Amazon-funded affordable home, rent will be maintained at levels affordable for low- and moderate-income families. Long-term, allowable rents will only increase with wage growth as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As real estate prices continue to rise, this commitment will save impacted families thousands of dollars annually.
Since its launch in January 2021, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund has invested more than $1.2 billion to create or preserve over 8,000 affordable homes for families earning between 30% and 80% AMI. These homes will support an estimated 18,000 people—nearly a quarter of whom are children—across the Puget Sound region in Washington state, the Arlington, Virginia region, and Nashville, Tennessee.
In December 2021, Amazon announced a more than $5 million partnership with the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) in the Puget Sound to launch the Housing Equity Accelerator. The program aims to help build the next generation of local real estate developers of color and expand affordable housing in the communities they serve. Based on data provided by the City of Bellevue, in just the last year, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund has increased the long-term multifamily affordable housing stock in Bellevue by 20%.