Chapter 7Where There is a Will, There is a Way
As we have seen throughout the tool, we face a number of challenges - not simply the supply of affordable housing, but also its implications for achieving a more racially equitable region in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. HAND members have rolled up their sleeves and are dedicated to meeting our region’s collective housing targets through a variety of vehicles - from innovative financing to working with the faith community to leverage public land. The following examples represent a small sample what we can achieve when we collaborate and fully embrace the resources at our disposal.
Amazon Housing Equity Fund
Arlington & Various Cities
Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund is a more than $2 billion commitment to preserve existing housing and create inclusive housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. The fund will support Amazon's commitment to affordable housing and will help ensure moderate- to low-income families can afford housing in communities with easy access to neighborhood services, amenities, and jobs.
The first investments include $381.9 million in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) to preserve and create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington, Virginia, and $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes in the state of Washington. Amazon’s commitment in Arlington includes $339.9 million below-market loans and grants worth $42 million to WHC. With Amazon’s flexible capital, WHC was able to execute the purchase of Crystal House in under two months, an expedited timeline for commercial real estate transactions. WHC’s finance partner, the Washington Housing Initiative, and Impact Pool, created by developer JBG SMITH, provided commercial real estate expertise and an additional loan of $6.7 million. The fund addresses an urgent need, as Arlington County has reported a loss of approximately 14,400 privately owned, affordably priced housing units since 2000. Between 2010 and 2018, the median home value climbed approximately 20% after adjusting for inflation, and median rents climbed 11%, while median household incomes climbed only 7%.
Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund also includes $2 billion in below-market capital in the form of loans, lines of credit, and grants to preserve and create 20,000 homes affordable for moderate- to low-income families in the Puget Sound region, Arlington/DC region, and Nashville (households making between 30% and 80% of the area’s median income—that’s less than $79,600 per year for a family of four in the Washington, DC, metro area).
The fund will also provide an additional $125 million in cash grants to businesses, nonprofits, and minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color. Additionally the fund will give grants to government partners not traditionally involved in affordable housing issues, such as transit agencies and school districts, to provide them with resources to advance and create equitable and affordable housing initiatives.
St. James Plaza
St. James Plaza, AHC Inc.’s new construction project in Alexandria, VA, opened its doors to 93 families in March 2018. The $32 million development transformed a three-acre parcel of land owned by a long-time local church into a vibrant mixed-income, mixed-use community. A green pedestrian public space winds through the site, providing a convenient walkway for neighborhood residents to access nearby public transportation and the Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus.
The site also includes a 2,300-square-foot preschool for 50 children. Operated by AHC’s partner, the nonprofit The Campagna Center, the school is located in the first floor of St. James Plaza and serves young residents and their neighbors. Thirty-one market-rate townhomes round out the site, further integrating the new development into the existing single-family neighborhood. Craftmark, a regional homebuilder, is constructing the luxury town houses next door to St. James Plaza.
St. James Plaza includes a mix of efficiencies, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartment homes for individuals and families earning up to 60% AMI. Amenities include underground parking, a spacious play area, a community room, and a fitness center.