Housing affordability assistance on the Eastside and a package delivery facility in the South Sound are among Amazon moves revealed this week, garnering attention in each market.
Amazon on Wednesday said it was committing $2 billion to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units in Puget Sound; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tenn., all headquarters communities where Amazon has or expects to have at least 5,000 employees in coming years. The company has created more than 80,000 full- and part-time jobs in Washington state since 2010, according to its economic impact report online.
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 organizations, the company said in a news release.
Amazon’s first investments locally include $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority (KCHA) to preserve up to 1,000 affordable apartment homes, with additional investments to come.
In each area, Amazon is targeting households making between 30 percent to 80 percent of the area’s median income (AMI). In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, this translates to a household of four earning less than $95,250 a year, the release said.
Amazon’s funds, to start, will allow KCHA to complete acquisition financing on 470 recently acquired units across three properties in Bellevue — Pinewood Village (108 units in the Crossroads area), Hampton Greens (326 units in the Bridle Trails area), and the Illahee Apartments (36 units in the Wilburton-NE 8th St. area) — preserving them as affordable housing by maintaining rent affordable to households earning at or below 80 percent of local median incomes. This commitment includes $4 million of the grant funds to support the preservation of housing for extremely low-income households (less than 30 percent of AMI) at the Illahee Apartments, the release said.
According to a January 2020 McKinsey study, King County added 67,000 units of mostly market-rate rental housing over the past 10 years, but lost more than 112,000 units (more than 40 percent) of its housing affordable to households earning 80 percent of AMI or less, the release said. KCHA accessed the municipal bond market for preservation and conversion of market-rate apartments to affordable housing, beginning with an acquisition in 1991. Its portfolio includes 7,000-plus housing units affordable to moderate- and low-income workers. With support from Amazon’s fund, KCHA will build its portfolio and increase affordability over time by minimizing rent increases, with buildings remaining affordable for at least 99 years, the release added.
“Acquiring these properties in Bellevue to ensure that they stay affordable is critical to preserving the economic diversity of this area,” Stephen Norman, executive director of KCHA, said in the release. “We are excited to work with Amazon to preserve affordable housing options close to jobs, transit, and schools. Our whole region thrives when a range of housing options is available to all.”
“I’m thrilled Amazon and King County Housing Authority are working together to make our growing Bellevue community more inclusive, equitable, and opportunity-rich for families of all income levels,” Bellevue City Manager Brad Miyake added in the release. “Corporate-nonprofit partnerships like this will ensure fast, strategic action, as well as positive, long-term change as we tackle this affordability crisis together as a region.”
King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci, who formerly led the region’s Affordable Housing Task Force and represents Bellevue on the council, applauded Amazon’s move in a separate statement.
“It is encouraging to see our state’s largest employer stepping up to provide support to turn the tide on our crisis of housing affordability,” Balducci said. “I’m pleased to see Amazon’s investments are prioritizing housing in East King County, which will enable equitable access to great jobs and schools, and will help us to remain an inclusive community where people of all income levels can afford to live. I am especially heartened by the partnership with the King County Housing Authority, which has long been one of our most effective providers of affordable housing.”
She added, “As a community, it’s on us to rise to this challenge and to work with Amazon and other corporate and community leaders to use every tool we have available to meet the goals of the Affordable Housing Taskforce’s recommendations of building and preserving 44,000 affordable housing units in King County by 2024 and 244,000 by 2040. This investment will help, but we have more work to do. I look forward to partnering with Amazon going forward.”
In the three U.S. regions, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund will provide an additional $125 million in cash grants to businesses, nonprofits, and minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color. The fund will also give grants to government partners not traditionally involved in affordable housing issues, such as transit agencies and school districts, to provide them with resources to advance and create equitable and affordable housing initiatives, Amazon’s release said.
Lakewood Delivery Station
Amazon confirmed it will lease a site in Lakewood for one of its delivery stations. Packages are shipped to a delivery station from neighboring Amazon fulfillment and sortation centers, loaded into delivery vehicles and delivered to customers.
The building, Lakewood Logistics Center II, is about 470,000 square feet and will be completed in the third quarter, when the lease will begin, according to Steve Young, senior vice president of asset management for the Western region at Denver-based real estate investment management firm Black Creek Group. The firm owns the facility at 14802 Spring St. SW, which is near Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Interstate 5.
The Lakewood delivery station will create hundreds of full- and part-time jobs, all paying at least $15 per hour and offering a variety of benefits packages from day one, according to an email from Karen Riley Sawyer of Amazon public relations in Oregon and Washington. The site also will offer hundreds of driver opportunities through Amazon’s delivery service partners and Amazon Flex, she said.
Amazon Flex involves using one’s own vehicle to deliver packages for Amazon.
Black Creek Group is marketing another neighboring building, Lakewood Logistics Center I, which is about 205,000 square feet and was recently completed. There’s a lot interest in the site, at 7530 150th St. SW, given its excellent location, Young said in an email.
The Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Tesla is interested in the building. A Tesla spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment today.
Commenting on the lease of the larger building, Young said: “We are thrilled to see leasing beat our expectations as the market for industrial space continues to boom with growing e-commerce. Thank you to Wilma Warshak of WREA (Washington Real Estate Advisors), who was an instrumental partner in this transaction, as well as Tony Miltenberger of KBC Advisors, who helped execute this deal on behalf of the tenant for Lakewood Logistics Center II.”
Amazon currently has four delivery stations in the state and seven fulfillment and sorting centers, according to a company website listing Amazon facilities and economic impact in each state.