We hopped on the HQ2 train recently and wrote about how Amazon's new homes could benefit the public transit systems for both Queens and Crystal City (which was recently renamed National Landing). There are many moving parts outside of public transportation — traffic mitigation, local shops, and affordable housing, to name a few. One of the bigger questions looming over these two towns is: What will Amazon mean for the housing market?
Affordable housing has been widely discussed across America this year. Some could say it's because people are flocking to where jobs are: the city. This is why living in Silicon Valley is almost out of the question if you don't make six figures and don't want six or more roommates. What's causing such notable rent increases is the amount of people looking for jobs. Millennials make up the largest part of workforce today and as more and more people graduate, the more we can expect to see rents to go up. Enter: affordable housing.
Finding fair housing isn't just about benefiting newcomers, because it can also benefit those who are already living in the city. About a fifth of Queens is currently living in poverty and are in need of affordable housing projects that are designed for those who make as little as $15K a year. What are people nervous about? Let's talk about Seattle, Amazon's OG home. In 2010 it had about 5,000 employees, and today there are 45,000 working in the Seattle office — a growth that nearly no one predicted.
The two major issues the area is facing since Amazon's boom are traffic and housing prices. Seattle has been trying to combat their megacommutes that can consist of sitting in traffic for about 90 minutes one way for work. On top of the commute are the intense housing prices pushing middle- and low-income individuals and families farther and farther from the cities. The housing market has doubled in the past 6 years in Seattle, which many chalk up to Amazon's campus and enormous influx of employees.
What really hurt the city was that no one prepared for this. Now, the city is trying to play catchup as it grows — creating a more dependable public transit system, pollution mitigation, and, of course, affordable housing.
To say some (or most) New Yorkers are worried about Amazon because of what's happened in Seattle would be an understatement. Affordable housing has been a focal point for the state's government, but taking the Amazon bid has some thinking differently, particularly since news hit that their HQ2 spot will actually be taking over land originally dedicated to building approximately 1,500 affordable housing units.
Take a deep breath. As I mentioned in our other article, Amazon doesn't just get money from the state or a tax write-off immediately. Outside of filling the number of new jobs each year, Amazon is expected to give to their new communities, not take. New York's campus will contain a tech incubator space, artistic and industrial innovation spaces, a new elementary school, and an eco-friendly multi-million square foot HQ. The bid also states that Amazon is expected to contribute to infrastructure improvements, commit to fair hiring processes accepting women, minority-owned businesses, and looking locally for employees.
Many people are trying to learn from Amazon's takeover of Seattle, and something that can comfort those living in New York is that they have something that Seattle didn't: time. But, there's a lot of pressure for Amazon to be different as far as big companies go — New York was picked so Bezos can take this opportunity to show other companies how things should be done. Time will tell if they'll hold up their end of the deal and support the locals instead of pushing residents further out in search of affordable housing.