New Amazon Headquarters Aggravates Housing Shortage in Northern Virginia

July 17, 2019
Photo: Unsplash/Christian Wiediger

Amazon’s newest headquarters is already putting stress on Northern Virginia’s lacking affordable housing, Curbed reports.

As soon as the new headquarters location was announced—amid the high-rises of Crystal City just west of Reagan National Airport and the nation’s capitol—housing advocates and low- and moderate-income residents of the area felt uneasy. Since then, home prices have spiked 17 percent, advocates have warned about increasing displacement, rising prices, and speculation, and residents conceded in a survey that while Amazon’s arrival will be beneficial, it will also raise the cost of living in an already expensive region.

“Amazon isn’t creating a housing problem in northern Virginia,” says Terry Clower, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who studies regional development, “but it is highlighting an existing problem we’ve had for some time that’s been building.”

The county adopted a housing master plan in 2015 that set a goal of having 17.7 percent of Arlington’s rental housing be affordable for someone making $65,000 a year (in 2015 dollars) by 2040. Since the county was short about 9,000 units when the plan was made pre-Amazon, that means adding roughly 600 rental units a year. Increasing homeownership is even more challenging; when the average price in Arlington is $650,000, according to Cristeal, programs to support new homeowners become prohibitively expensive, and regardless, it’s hard to quantify the county’s goals.

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