Arlington County and Amazon are seeking ways to provide affordable housing measures as Amazon HQ2’s new presence is causing home values to skyrocket.
“We recognize the anxiety faced by households with low and moderate incomes, mainly but not exclusively renters, and their struggle to remain here,” Arlington County Housing Director David Cristeal told The Center Square via email.
“The County is committed to doing the best it can to preserve and expand housing affordability with the resources it controls and can use to leverage other public (state and federal) as well as private (for-profit, non-profit, philanthropic, etc.) resources (financial and other),” he said.
Arlington’s median housing prices are expected to rise 17.2 percent from 2018 prices by the end of 2019, according to data released this month by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. Initially, the association predicted a rise of only 5.1 percent, but cited Amazon’s announcement to bring its headquarters to the area as the primary reason for the shift.
Housing prices in Fairfax County, which borders Arlington from the north and the west, are expected to increase by about 7 percent, which is also higher than the previously predicted 3.1 percent.
In the association’s June finance summit, Dr. Terry Clower of George Mason University said that many homeowners are deciding to hold onto their property and rent it when prices increase rather than sell it.
As part of the Amazon HQ2 deal, Arlington announced it would increase spending on affordable housing measures.
“The County has a range of programs to help lower-income people remain in Arlington in the face of rising housing prices,” Cristeal said. These include direct aid for paying rent, linking people with housing, linking people with services to stay in their home, and finance and land use tools that increase affordable housing for people with low income.
To assist in this process, Amazon announced this week that it would gift $3 million to the Arlington Community Foundation to assist with affordable housing efforts.
“We believe the presence of Amazon has provided a renewed focus by local governments on the region’s housing needs, which cross many income levels,” Ann Gutkin, vice president of communications at the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, told The Center Square via email.
“Already the area governments have begun conversations to work together and to bring in more business participation in these efforts…,” she said. “We understand that Amazon is committed to providing considerable resources toward housing affordability, as is the Virginia Housing Development Authority. We support the renewed focus on funding, zoning that allows various housing types, and other ideas that are being studied as possible solutions.”
The median sale for a house in Arlington was $615,000 in May, which is a nearly 10 percent increase from last year.