Amazon pledges billions for affordable homes in U.S.

Amazon has become the latest US tech giant to pledge billions of dollars to support affordable housing.

The e-commerce giant said it was starting a fund of more than $2bn (£1.47bn) aimed at creating or preserving 20,000 homes across three regions in the US.

The money will be used primarily to support low-cost loans for moderate income families, it said.

The effort follows years of rising home and rental prices in the US.

Home prices have climbed more than 6% each year since 2012, despite muted wage growth for most workers. Before the pandemic, rental rates had also risen steadily, driving a shortage of affordable units.

In some cities, such as San Francisco, the rapid growth of the tech industry has been blamed for exacerbating the affordability crisis, after an influx of highly paid engineers drove up rents and priced out other residents.

In 2019, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google, among other tech firms, made high-profile promises of hundreds of millions of dollars to help ease the crunch. Their efforts were welcomed by advocates, who also cautioned that more comprehensive measures were needed.

Amazon, which has faced increasing scrutiny of its its work practices as its profits boom during the pandemic, said its initiative would focus on the areas around its hometown of Seattle, as well as Nashville and Washington DC, two other major employment hubs.

The firm said it was targeting its fund at families earning up to 80% of each area’s median income – up to roughly $95,000 for a family of four in the case of Seattle.

In addition to subsidising the low-cost home loans, the firm is also planning donations to charities and other groups working on the housing issue.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos said the Housing Equity Fund would “help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities”.

The average annual compensation of an Amazon worker in the US was $36,640 in 2019, roughly in line with the national average.

Mr Bezos, who has an estimated net worth of more than $185bn and properties scattered across the US, earned 58 times that amount that year.

– BBC

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