The world's largest virtual store is plunking down $300 million to help build some distinctly nonvirtual housing -- affordable places for its workforce and others to live near its three corporate hubs.
That would, of course, be Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), which has announced it's now working to create 3,000 new housing units in and around Seattle; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee.
Those three communities are home to Amazon's burgeoning corporate campuses, which employ tens of thousands of people already, with expectations of tens of thousands more to come. The company says it plans to work with developers to build those units on land owned by transit agencies or privately owned land in close proximity to public transit.
The Housing Equity Fund moves forward
The June 16 announcement follows Amazon's January announcement that it was committing more than $2 billion to its new Housing Equity Fund, with the goal of preserving and creating more than 20,000 affordable housing units in those three areas.
The first $300 million is going specifically toward the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD) -- which the company says is a unique approach to preserving and creating housing for low- and moderate-income households near quality public transit.
"When successful, TOD has a range of benefits, including greater economic activity, reduced traffic congestion and associated environmental benefits, and a strengthened, more resilient labor force," the June 16 announcement says.
And Amazon says it's not just about the company. "By investing $300 million of Amazon's $2 billion Housing Equity Fund in transit-oriented housing development, moderate- to low-income families in Puget Sound, Arlington, and Nashville will be able to reduce their expenditures on housing while gaining easy transit to jobs and amenities," Jay Carney, the company's senior vice president of global corporate affairs, says in the announcement. "We hope this will pave a path for more inclusive communities."
The Millionacres bottom line: Mill Villages for the 21st century?
Amazon already has about 1.3 million employees, a number steadily on the rise. The company's move to provide housing for that part of its workforce that lives near its corporate centers sort of calls to mind those mill villages of the past, where most people worked for the same company and often in company-owned housing and with company stores. (Whole Foods, anyone?)
That's stretching the analogy a bit, of course, but it does speak to this giant firm's ability to move the mark on what corporations can do to help ensure availability of their own workforce in ways that serve the whole village -- even when that village is a whole metro area.
That said, real estate investors wanting to jump aboard Amazon's TOD train might want to move fast: "Amazon is providing developers with fast access to capital at below-market rates to both expedite and create affordable homes that could otherwise be lost to market-rate developers," its latest announcement says.