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Amazon’s $55 million speeds up affordable housing project in Tysons

Brian Stout, senior manager of public policy for Amazon, left, speaks with John Foust, Dranesville District supervisor, after an announcement about new affordable housing in Tysons at the Fairfax Government Center on May 3. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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Efforts to build 516 units of affordable housing in the expensive Tysons area of Fairfax County will get a $55 million boost from Amazon, officials announced Tuesday.

Through that investment from the tech company’s Housing Equity Fund, construction will accelerate on the planned Dominion Square development a short walk from the Spring Hill Metro stop, Fairfax County officials said during a news conference.

The two-building project, which has yet to break ground, will be the first residential community fully committed to below-market-rate housing in Tysons, a once-mall-centric neighborhood that has become a hub for Fortune 500 companies, luxury high-rise condominium developments and top-flight hotels and restaurants.

Other developments in the neighborhood have committed to setting aside 20 percent of their units for lower-to-moderate-income families, which housing experts say has done little to make Tysons more affordable.

“This is where we have to build affordable housing and we’re showing today that it can be done,” said Carmen Romero, chief executive of the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The group will develop the homes, which are geared toward families earning below 60 percent of the area’s median income — about $77,400 per year for a family of four.

Dominion Square will also include a 30,000-square-foot community center, officials said.

The financial commitment from Amazon, in the form of low-interest loans and grants, is part of the company’s $2 billion effort to create more affordable homes in each of the three regions where it has a strong presence, including Northern Virginia. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

So far, the company has committed about $800 million toward affordable housing in the Washington region, though critics say those efforts have not sufficiently benefited poorer families.

Jeffrey C. McKay, chair of Fairfax’s county board, said the addition of lower-priced homes in Tysons will make it easier to attract workers needed to fill jobs in the region.

“There is a direct economic benefit from this,” McKay said.