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Courtesy of Sound Transit

Amazon and Sound Transit are partnering to accelerate development of up to 1,200 new affordable housing units, Amazon announced today.

The units are located on Sound Transit surplus properties near light rail stations across Puget Sound, including on the Eastside.

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, including site due diligence, engineering, and permitting. The remaining $75 million will support construction of new affordable housing, which is expected to begin within five years. The partnership will help ensure moderate- to low-income families can afford to live in neighborhoods with easy access to employment, schools, health care, education, and other amenities, Amazon said in a news release.

“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,” Catherine Buell, head of community development at Amazon, said in the release.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes on the Eastside. This includes units in Bellevue’s Pinewood Village, Hampton Greens, and the Illahee Apartments. The investments are part of the company committing $2 billion to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units in Puget Sound; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee, all headquarters communities where Amazon has or expects to have at least 5,000 employees in coming years.

“Housing and transit are intertwined and this latest commitment will help ensure families from all income levels will benefit from the buildout 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,” Buell said.

Along with expanding its rail service, Sound Transit has committed to promoting inclusive uses on its sites that reflect the local community as part of Sound Transit’s equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) program. The program has built, is constructing, or is designing more than 1,500 affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus property that was acquired for building and operating the transit system but is no longer needed for transit. Amazon’s investment will expedite pre-development efforts by providing early-stage funding, as well as permanent financing for new affordable housing units developed on Sound Transit property, the release said.

Among planned Eastside projects, a 6.8-acre TOD site in Bellevue’s Spring District is proposed for a mixed-use, mixed-income project that would include more than 280 units of affordable housing, according to a first quarter 2021 Sound Transit status report of TOD projects.

“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,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said in today’s release. “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,” added 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.”

Sound Transit is working with local cities, counties, and communities to plan for the needs of 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, the release said.

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.

Amazon today also announced similar transit-related affordable housing programs for the Nashville and Washington, D.C., metro areas.