Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) and Sound Transit today announced a partnership to accelerate the creation of up to 1,200 new affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus properties near light rail stations across the Puget Sound region. Amazon is committing $100 million in below-market funding to developers to help create and expedite the development of Sound Transit property offered for affordable housing.
The first $25 million will fund pre-development activities like site due diligence, engineering, and permitting, while the remaining $75 million will support the construction of new affordable housing, which is expected to begin within five years. The partnership will help ensure that moderate- to low-income families can afford to live in great neighborhoods with easy access to employment, schools, health care, education, and other amenities.
“In its first six months, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund has committed over $285 million to accelerate the creation and preservation of an estimated 2,000 affordable homes for the Puget Sound region,” said Catherine Buell, Head of Community Development, Amazon. “Housing and transit are intertwined and this latest commitment will help ensure families from all income levels will benefit from the build out of mass transit—greater affordability and equitable economic opportunity, easy access to daily needs, and the environmental benefits of reduced traffic congestion and car reliance.”
Sound Transit is growing its light rail service as part of its voter-approved expansions. In addition, it has committed to promoting inclusive uses on Sound Transit sites that are reflective of the local community as part of the Board’s Equitable Transit Oriented Development Policy. To date, Sound Transit’s TOD program has built, is constructing, or is designing over 1,500 affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus property. Amazon’s investment will expedite their pre-development efforts by providing early-stage funding, as well as permanent financing for new affordable housing units developed on Sound Transit property.
“Increasingly, we are facing an affordable housing crisis across the entire Puget Sound region, and Sound Transit is expanding rail service into communities that are becoming less and less affordable for working families,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We have a forward-leaning policy of partnering with developers to facilitate affordable housing near our stations, but obtaining the necessary funding to build those units has always been a challenge. Amazon’s $100 million commitment to help fill that gap and make transit more accessible to those who need it the most is truly welcome and appreciated.”
“There’s nowhere better to build affordable housing than near transit,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel. “That’s why the Sound Transit Board has strongly endorsed using our surplus properties to help make our region more livable and equitable.”
Rising rent costs and real estate prices in the Puget Sound region have made transit-oriented development an impactful solution for connecting communities to jobs, services, and resources that allow them to remain in their cities and preserve the region’s diversity and culture. Transit-oriented affordable housing development also helps promote local community and economic development, environmental sustainability, and reduces commute times, expenses, and environmental impacts related to auto ownership.
Sound Transit, a transit system that serves the Central Puget Sound region, is working in close collaboration with local cities, counties, and communities to plan for the needs of the properties near the existing Link light rail line as well as future stations adjacent to Northgate Link, East Link, Federal Way Link, Downtown Redmond Link, and Lynnwood Link—many of which serve primarily lower- and middle-income zip codes. By 2024, Sound Transit will nearly triple the reach of the region’s light rail system from 22 miles to 62 miles and from 22 stations to 50 stations, with further voter-approved investments coming during the following two decades.
This is the second investment in the region from Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund—a more than $2 billion commitment to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable homes through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. The Fund prioritizes the equitable and inclusive development of resource-rich communities with easy access to neighborhood services, amenities, and jobs. Amazon’s partnership with Sound Transit is part of its $300 million total transit commitment for equitable transit-oriented affordable housing development in communities it calls home. Amazon’s first Housing Equity Fund commitment in Washington state is funding $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve affordability for 1,000 apartment homes.
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