Story at a glance

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledges $20 million to Arlington ahead of HQ2 construction.
  • This is one of many efforts Amazon has made to foster a sense of community in Northern Virginia.
  • To combat the competitive housing market, money will have to go toward creating more units.
  • Some are concerned that this move may not be enough to lower prices significantly.

Approximately a year after Amazon announced that its second headquarters would be built in Arlington, Va., the company has pledged a $20 million donation to help develop affordable housing within the city. 

The impact of Arlington becoming the home of Amazon’s HQ2 has been widely felt, most prominently in the housing market. According to data provided by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the median sold price in the Arlington County housing market has increased 12 percent from October 2018, which translates to an approximate $60,000 price jump. The number of days units remain on the market are decreasing, with houses selling fast. Additionally, native Virginians and long-standing residents have been wary of the tech giant’s presence for almost a year due to fears of further displacement and gentrification. 

The money Amazon pledges is meant to assuage fears of another housing bubble fueled by the growth and development of the tech industry. Similar to nationwide trends, Virginia has seen a shortage of housing, with home inventories reportedly down by a staggering 51 percent from last year. 

This isn’t the first donation Amazon made to its future home; back in June, Arlington County received $3 million designated for building and maintaining affordable housing units.

The company appears to be dedicated to having a positive impact on the D.C. and Northern Virginia region. Part of it’s community-centric design aims to be sustainable and provide an open green space for residents as well as its commitment to affordable housing development. It also intends to allocate 12,000 square feet to become a public child care center. 

Amazon’s generosity isn’t without reward, however; in return for its social initiatives, the Arlington County Board approved the company’s request to increase its office size to 2.2 million square feet, from the originally proposed 1.56 million. Experts also express doubt about the donations cooling the market. 

Christine Richardson, President of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, states, “I don’t see it necessarily impacting prices in Arlington, but it will allow more people to live there,” assuming Amazon can construct more inventory. This problem is tied to density, however, and Richardson notes that Arlington doesn’t have available land to develop, so Amazon’s strategy would likely be to redevelop existing properties to house more people. 

This move may create more housing, Richardson says, but it may not lower values of Arlington real estate or make it more accessible for low-income residents. “Arlington is a really desirable place to live,” she says, “even before the announcement,” but adds that “anything Amazon can do to help is good.”

Amazon is reportedly planning to begin construction on the new headquarters in 2020. 

Published on Nov 26, 2019