Tech giant Amazon says it will donate $3 million to the Arlington Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization committed to improving the quality of life in the county, to help boost access to affordable housing and social services for Arlington’s low-income residents. The Seattle-based company’s announcement comes as development plans for its Northern Virginia headquarters take shape and list prices for homes near the headquarters site spike.
It also comes as residents and experts worry about an “Amazon effect” on the cost of living in the area, which has continued to balloon as the region’s population has swelled absent a commensurate rise in the supply of housing. Signs of such an effect—or at least of property speculation based on Amazon’s imminent move to “National Landing”—have already begun to be seen. Recent real estate reports have found that Arlington home prices have gone up by double-digit percentages and that the number of Arlington homes for sale has significantly dropped since Amazon revealed in November 2018 that it would move to Northern Virginia.
In a statement, Jennifer Owens, the president of the Arlington Community Foundation, said Amazon’s donation “comes at a critical time” for the county. “Over the last decade, housing prices in our region have steadily increased leading to fewer housing options for all income levels and placing a disproportionate burden on our community’s lowest income residents,” she said. More than 9,000 Arlington households make $35,000 a year or less, according to the foundation, and the county has lost most of its naturally affordable housing since 2000.
Amazon additionally announced Tuesday that, through September, it will match up to $5 million in its employees’ charitable givings to 20 nonprofits working on housing issues in the D.C. and Seattle regions. Those nonprofits include AHC Inc., the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, A-SPAN, Friendship Place, Mary’s Place, and Doorways. The company previously donated $1 million to Friendship Place, based in D.C., through a giving match. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also pledged $2 billion to homelessness and education causes.
The company and its development partner in Northern Virginia, JBG Smith, are currently awaiting Arlington approvals for their development plans for the would-be headquarters, dubbed “HQ2.” As part of a state incentives package for HQ2, Virginia Tech said Monday that it would build a new, $1 billion “Innovation Campus” in Arlington-adjacent Alexandria.