NW REporter

Amazon pledges $40 million to boost homeownership

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Amazon pledged $40 million last month to help moderate-income residents become homeowners in three areas where the online retailer and tech company has a major presence. The pilot initiative aims to help up to 800 individuals and families from underserved communities in Nashville, Tennessee; Arlington, Virginia; and the Puget Sound region.

The funds include a $19 million grant and $20 million loan to the National Housing Trust (NHT) and is part of Amazon’s ongoing $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund (HEF) that launched in 2021. It marks Amazon’s first foray into homeownership projects. Previous pledges supported rentals.

“As a leader in affordable homeownership lending, we are excited to partner with the Amazon Housing Equity Fund,” said Priya Jayachandran, CEO of the National Housing Trust. “This partnership is unique because Amazon’s support will enable us to create new, innovative pathways to ownership that will transform people’s lives.” Earlier this year, NHT received a $10 million grant from MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving for its affordable housing work.

The latest initiative will support several innovative homeownership models, including community land trusts where residents will own their physical homes but the land will be owned and stewarded by nonprofits and community-based organizations.

In the Seattle area, Amazon and NHT will partner with three organizations initially. Working with Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, the partners will support construction of over 240 homes and provide downpayment assistance to enable 50 families to become homeowners. The second recipient, African Community Housing & Development (ACHD) will use funds for operating support and technical assistance to strengthen its housing development capacity. Homestead Community Land Trust, the third partner, will use the financial support to develop land and housing with community partners.

“By creating homeownership opportunities for the community, we are opening doors to generational stability for families,” said Hamdi Abdulle, co-founder and executive director at ACHD. Led by women of color, ACHD serves African immigrant and refugee populations in King County.

“Historically, those who are able to own homes are more likely to experience long-term economic stability, while those who can’t are more likely to struggle financially,” said Senthil Sankaran, managing principal at the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “This new initiative will allow us to explore ways to help more moderate-income residents realize their dreams of homeownership and, in turn, help build wealth that they can pass on to the next generation.”

Since 2021, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund has committed $525 million to help preserve or build more than 5,300 units of affordable housing in the Puget Sound region.

Since HEF was started, more than $1.7 billion of funds have helped create or preserve more than 14,000 homes with guaranteed affordable rents across the three focus communities. HEF is in addition to $100 million in cash and in-kind donations to Mary’s Place, its nonprofit partner that has a family shelter inside an Amazon building in downtown Seattle.

Nearly 75% of today’s would-be homeowners cite affordability as a barrier to buying a home. NHT notes this dynamic is exacerbated for families of color, “where the U.S.’s legacy of segregation, redlining, and racialized policies has led to a racial homeownership gap.”

Nationwide, the rate of homeownership among Black Americans, at 44%, is nearly 29 percentage points below that of white Americans (72.7%). Within Washington state, 68% of white people own their home. That compares to 35% of Black people and 47% of Hispanic people, according to data analyzed by the National Association of REALTORS®.

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