Founded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is the largest internet company by revenue in the world, and it has said it is starting a fund of more than US$2 billion to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable homes across three regions in the US.
"Amazon has a long-standing commitment to helping people in need, including the Mary’s Place family shelter we built inside our Puget Sound headquarters. The shelter now supports over 200 women and children experiencing homelessness every night," said Bezos, Amazon CEO and President. "This new US$2 billion Housing Equity Fund will create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in all three of our headquarters regions: Arlington, Virginia; Puget Sound, Washington; and Nashville, Tennessee. It will also help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities."
Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund will help preserve existing housing and help create inclusive housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organisations, Amazon announced in a press release.
"The Fund underscores Amazon’s commitment to affordable housing and will help ensure that moderate to low-income families can afford housing in resource-rich communities with easy access to neighbourhood services, amenities and jobs.
"Amazon’s first investments include US$381.9 million in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve and create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington, and US$185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes in the
state of Washington, with additional investments to come in all three regions," the ecommerce giant said.
Home prices in the US have climbed more than six per cent annually since 2012 despite low wage growth for most workers. Before the coronavirus pandemic, rental prices had also risen steadily, causing a shortage of affordable units. In some cities, such as San Francisco, the rapid growth of the tech industry has been blamed for exacerbating the affordability crisis, after an influx of highly paid engineers drove up rents and priced out other residents, BBC reported.
In 2019, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google made high-profile promises of hundreds of millions of dollars to help ease the cost of housing. Their efforts were welcomed by advocates, who also cautioned that more comprehensive measures were needed.
Amazon said it was targeting its fund at families earning up to 80 per cent of each area's median income – up to roughly US$95,000 for a family of four in the case of Seattle, Washington. In addition to subsidising the low-cost home loans, Amazon is also planning donations to charities and other groups working on the housing issue.
Bezos has an estimated net worth of more than US$185 billion.