Amazon commits $100M to assist construct reasonably priced housing close to Seattle-area gentle rail stations

Mount Baker Lofts, located in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, includes 57 affordable artist live-work units built by Artspace in 2014. It was built on Sound Transit surplus property. (Photo Courtesy of Sound Transit)

Amazon is committing $100 million to help create up to 1,200 affordable housing units across the Puget Sound region as part of its ongoing Housing Equity Fund. The latest effort is part of a partnership with Sound Transit and the units will be built on the agency’s surplus properties near light rail stations.

The Seattle-based tech giant first announced its $2 billion initiative in January, aiming to create affordable housing in three communities where its rapid growth risks deepening the economic divide — the Seattle area, Northern Virginia, and Nashville, Tenn.

Wednesday’s announcement of $300 million in new funds goes toward transit-oriented affordable housing development in areas around those communities. Below-market loans of $125 million will go to developers working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) to create more than 1,000 new homes in the Washington, D.C. area; and $75 million to developers to create an estimated 800 homes on private land in Nashville near high-capacity WeGo transit corridors.

In the first six months of the fund, Amazon has so far committed more than $285 million toward affordable housing in the Puget Sound region. The move is in line with what other tech companies are doing to address housing inequity.

Microsoft started the trend with a $750 million affordable housing initiative focused on areas around its Redmond, Wash., headquarters. The company’s latest investment was $65 million toward new housing units as well as efforts to reduce rents in Bellevue and Kirkland, Wash. As of last November, Microsoft had committed about $450 million of the pledged $750 million, which the company estimates will create and preserve more than 8,000 affordable housing units.

Sound Transit, which serves the central Puget Sound region, is in the midst of growing its light rail service as part of voter-approved expansions. The agency’s TOD program has built, is constructing, or is designing over 1,500 affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus property, according to an Amazon news release.

Amazon says its investment will “expedite pre-development efforts by providing early-stage funding, as well as permanent financing for new affordable housing units developed on Sound Transit property.”

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