Homeowners, renters and real estate agents in the Washington area have all been asking the same question for the past month: How will Amazon affect housing values, rents and sales?
The answer, according to housing experts at a George Mason University panel Wednesday night: The effect will be geographically dispersed and gradual.
Housing demand is expected to increase between 5 and 10 percent in the region, although areas close to the Crystal City-Pentagon City neighborhoods where the online company will set up shop may see much higher demand — and higher prices.
“The Washington region is not Seattle . . . and Amazon’s arrival won’t substantially change existing trends,” said Jeannette Chapman, deputy director and senior research associate at the Stephen S. Fuller Institute for Research at the school, as she unveiled the latest research about Amazon’s effect on the local housing market. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
The Washington area, Chapman said, already has about 1 million more jobs and much more economic activity than the Seattle area, where high-paid employees at Amazon’s headquarters have dramatically reshaped in the housing market in recent years.
No single city or county will house the majority of the 25,000 Amazon workers who will eventually be hired at the new hub, although about 15 percent are likely to settle in Arlington County, where housing is costly and scarce.
As local leaders have explained, the rollout of jobs will be slow, with about 400 expected to be hired in 2019, about 1,200 in 2020 and the majority to arrive by 2025 or later. Most will work, at least initially, in now-empty office buildings owned by JBG Smith in Crystal City. Since the D.C. region normally adds about 40,000 jobs each year, the addition of 25,000 by 2030, or almost 38,000 if Amazon expands further, is “well within historic norms” for the area, Chapman told a full house at the George Mason law school.
There is already a housing shortage in the region, with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments reporting in September that the area needs to add 100,000 homes by 2045 to sustain economic growth.
Although interest in home sales spiked in the first few days after the Amazon announcement, they have settled back to about the same level as in early November, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. But sales agents have started advertising residences as being in or near Amazon and National Landing, the freshly minted marketing term for the Crystal City-Pentagon City-Potomac Yard area.
Almost three-quarters of the 14,672 people who live in the National Landing area are renters, not owners, and they have an average household income of $138,000. The average salary for Amazon employees will be higher, the company has said.
“We have a housing affordability problem regardless of Amazon,” said Michelle Winters, executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions.
Arlington alone has lost 17,000 units of affordable housing since the year 2000 and has about 3,000 units affordable to a family of four earning $65,000. Winters said the only way to increase that supply is by changing zoning laws to allow more middle-income housing and more housing density near public transit, and improving subsidies to nonprofit developers of affordable units.
“Market-wise, [Amazon] is not going to make the housing supply better, but the question is, can we turn the buzz into interest, to build the political will and economic ability, to tackle this head on?” Winters said.
Although Virginians have been largely receptive to the arrival of Amazon, activists are promising to demand as many public benefits as possible from the company as it seeks government approval for its plans.
Our Revolution Arlington, La Collectiva, Democratic Socialists of America-Northern Virginia and Good Jobs First are planning demonstrations Saturday at the Arlington County Board and Alexandria City Council meetings to express concern about Amazon’s effect on residents.
Similar gatherings are planned for New York and Nashville, where Amazon is also opening offices.
Arlington County, whose leaders have been taking questions through Facebook Live events, will host its first in-person listening session at 7 p.m. Monday at Gunston Middle School.