Arlington County and Amazon to Facilitate Add'l Affordable Housing

Published on July 13, 2021

Amazon has announced its intention to assign its Option on the undeveloped land parcels on the Crystal House Apartments site to Arlington County for the purpose of developing new affordable housing. More than 550 units are planned to be developed as affordable for moderate- to low income households. The agreement also provides flexibility to the County to develop a portion of the overall unit count at other properties in Arlington County, if preferred. Amazon paid $40 million to secure this land option when it helped the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) acquire the property in 2020 and will convey it to the County as part of an Assignment and Assumption Agreement. The County Board will consider the proposed agreement at its July meeting.

Today's announcement is a part of Amazon's commitment earlier this year in which its Housing Equity Fund provided $381.9 million in low-rate loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC)—a nonprofit organization that preserves homes so they are affordable for moderate- to low-income residents. The loan and grants helped WHC purchase Crystal House and preserve affordability of the apartment units to support moderate- to low-income families for a 99-year period.

At that time, Amazon purchased an Option on the development rights for the undeveloped parcels of the Crystal House site, which it is now assigning to the County. The proposed agreement will provide the County and its selected development partner(s) significant flexibility to provide a minimum of 554 affordable residential units, of which a minimum of 148 of the residential units will be committed to households earning 50% or less of the area median income (AMI), and a minimum of 406 of the residential units will be committed to households earning 80% or less of the AMI on the site by January 1, 2028.

"Amazon is demonstrating dedication and commitment to the Arlington community with this game-changing opportunity to increase affordable housing in the County," said Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia. "Future development on the Crystal House site will help bolster critical housing supply goals in an area with limited affordable housing options."

"Amazon is committed to promoting economic inclusion for all families and fostering a thriving community in and around Arlington," said Catherine Buell, head of community development, Amazon. "We are excited to build on our earlier work to preserve affordable housing at Crystal House in the heart of our new headquarters. This donation to the County brings us a step closer to achieving up to 1,300 total affordable homes at the site for families earning moderate- to low-incomes."

If the agreement is approved, the County will initiate a thorough, national-scale developer selection process with a master developer and subdevelopers to provide best practices for multiple-phase, mixed-income, urban block development and associated finance strategies. The project shall reflect goals of Arlington County's Affordable Housing Master Plan, the Housing Arlington program, and other related policies.

Read more from Amazon in their blog post.

See the Board Report on this topic (scroll to Item #56).