SEATTLE — Amazon is donating $8 million to two nonprofits in Seattle and Arlington, Virginia to increase the supply of affordable housing and provide services for people experiencing homelessness.
Plymouth Housing in Seattle will receive $5 million to provide permanent supportive housing, according to Amazon. The Arlington Community Foundation will receive $3 million to increase access to affordable housing for low-income families and veterans.
“As the city of Seattle continues to look for solutions to homelessness, this generous donation from Amazon will help us meet the immediate needs of thousands of people in the coming years,” said Paul Lambros, CEO of Plymouth Housing. “Chronic homelessness is a disabling condition and a complex issue requiring the attention and support of the whole community. We’re very grateful to Amazon for continuing to step up in addressing this pressing need.”
Additionally, Amazon will begin matching employee contributions to select charities that address housing and homelessness in the two regions, according to the company. Donations will be matched through Sept. 30.
Since 2016, Amazon has made in-kind and cash donations to Seattle nonprofits Mary's Place and FareStart. According to the company, the value of the donations, including annual rent, is more than $130 million.
In November, Amazon announced it would split its second headquarters between Arlington, Virginia and Long Island City in Queens. The company later pulled out of the plan to build an HQ in New York.
Advocates have argued tech companies are largely to blame for the lack of affordable housing in and around Seattle. Some residents have been priced out of King County, retreating to more affordable areas. Meanwhile, King County's homeless population was on the rise up until recently - the latest data show a decrease of 8% in the homeless population.
The announcement from Amazon comes a year after Seattle scrapped its controversial head tax on big businesses. The $275-per-employee tax would have gone into effect in January for businesses grossing more than $20 million per year in revenue. The tax would have helped fund the effort to expand city services and affordable housing.
Seattle leadership was pressured to rescind the tax. Following the repeal in 2018, Amazon sent the following statement:
"Today's vote by the Seattle City Council to repeal the tax on job creation is the right decision for the region's economic prosperity. We are deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle and will continue to invest in local nonprofits like Mary's Place and FareStart that are making a difference on this important issue," said Vice President Drew Herdener.
Since that time, Amazon has slowed its growth in Seattle. The company decided to sublease what will be the city's second-tallest building and plans to move some of the company's operations to Bellevue.