Washington-area residents have largely positive expectations about Amazon’s second headquarters coming to Arlington, with large majorities saying it will have a good impact and result in significant economic growth, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll .
But a clear majority also says Amazon’s arrival will make it more expensive to live in the region, with some residents in follow-up interviews predicting a substantial jump in housing costs.
“The workforce population will suffer, people making modest incomes,” said Evelyn Branic, a District resident who works for a real estate company. “I heard from clients that people thought prices would go up and they wouldn’t be able to afford to buy or rent.”
About 7 in 10 Washington-area residents say Amazon’s headquarters in Northern Virginia will mainly have a good impact on the region, while about 2 in 10 say it will mainly have a bad impact, according to the survey. Optimism about Amazon is strong among all demographic groups surveyed, regardless of jurisdiction, income, political party, gender or race.
The results appear to confirm the views of Arlington elected officials and others that the Amazon project enjoys popular support and that opponents, though vocal, are in the minority.
Amid raucous protests, the Arlington County Board voted 5 to 0 in March to approve a $23 million incentives package for the project. Earlier, the Virginia General Assembly voted by large margins, and with little debate, to approve up to $750 million in incentives.
The political backing in Virginia contrasted sharply with the reaction in New York, which initially was also supposed to get an Amazon headquarters facility with 25,000 jobs.
But concerns about gentrification and government subsidies for the project prompted enough state and city officials to object to it that Amazon canceled it in February.
The poll finds that expectations for Amazon are also high among people who live closest to the company’s planned headquarters in the Crystal City community.
Of residents of Arlington and neighboring Alexandria and Falls Church, 68 percent say the Amazon headquarters will mainly be good for the region, compared with 27 percent who say the impact will mainly be bad.
The positive expectations about Amazon appeared to spring mostly from the promised influx of jobs at the facility, widely known as HQ2. The Seattle-based online retail giant has pledged to create 25,000 jobs over the next 10 to 12 years, paying average annual salaries of at least $150,000. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
A 74 percent majority of Washington-area residents think HQ2 will result in significant economic growth.
“It gives employment to people who need employment in this area, and later on will draw people from outside areas,” said Richard Bradshaw, a retired Amtrak employee who lives in Rosslyn.
Bradshaw also expects well-paid Amazon employees to drive up housing costs, but he sees that as an advantage because he owns a one-bedroom apartment in the county.
“That is my closest interest, selfishly and personally. If I were to sell, I would be in a good position,” Bradshaw said.
But several residents who said Amazon would have a bad impact overall said the new jobs weren’t worth the price to be paid in higher rents and more traffic.
“They’re going to bring a lot of jobs in the area, which is good,” said Makki Humed, who works for a car dealer and lives in Arlington’s Four Mile Run area. “On the other side, prices went up — rent, properties — just with the announcement that Amazon was coming to Arlington. I can’t imagine, when they are actually here, what the prices are going to be like.”
Humed worries that his rent will increase. Others are concerned that Amazon’s arrival means they won’t be able to afford a home.
“The housing market is insane. . . . I’ll never be able to buy anything here,” said an area resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she has been the victim of a crime. “There’s already a huge amount of traffic. People are stacked on top of each other.”
The poll finds a 63 percent majority of the region’s residents say the new Amazon headquarters will result in a significantly higher cost of living in the region, including majorities of most demographic groups. Those in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, who will probably be most affected, don’t stand out from the norm.
Amazon’s arrival already is causing housing prices to spike in Northern Virginia, according to research from real estate analysts.
Median home prices in Arlington are projected to increase 17.2 percent by the end of 2019, according to data from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.
Before the HQ2 announcement, the groups had only forecast an increase of 5.1 percent. The Center for Regional Analysis is part of George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government, which co-sponsored the poll with The Post.
Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a union-backed group critical of government subsidies for Amazon and other companies, said the responses displayed a mixed attitude about big projects.
“There’s a huge ambivalence about growth, and your results exhibit that,” LeRoy said. “Amazon is a very popular company . . . but people realize having 25,000 highly paid newbies is going to put a lot of pressure on housing affordability.”
Since the poll was conducted, Amazon announced it will donate $3 million to support affordable housing in Arlington. Analysts said the amount would help build about two dozen affordable units, whereas government officials and specialists say the need for affordable housing in the Virginia suburbs runs in the tens of thousands of units.
People with annual household incomes of $200,000 or higher are most positive toward Amazon building its second headquarters in the region, with 78 percent saying it will have a good impact. That compares with 68 percent of those with incomes of less than $50,000 saying the same.
Republicans also are more likely to say that Amazon will have a good impact on the region: 81 percent of them say its impact will be positive, compared with 68 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents.
Nearly 7 in 10 residents with incomes less than $100,000 expect Amazon’s arrival to make it costlier to live in the area, compared with less than 6 in 10 of those with higher incomes. Nonwhites are 14 percentage points more likely to anticipate that Amazon will increase the cost of living than whites, 70 percent vs. 56 percent. White men are among the least likely to expect the area to become more expensive to live in as a result of Amazon’s arrival, with 50 percent predicting it will.
The Washington Post-Schar School poll was conducted by telephone April 25 to May 2 among a random sample of 1,507 adult residents of the Washington area, with 75 percent of interviews conducted on cellphones and 25 percent on landlines. Results from the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.