• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday Nov. 6, 2019 at 7:30 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

January 12, 2019

Amazon HQ2–Housing Costs May Rise by 15-20% and Housing Cost Burden Heavier on Tenants

Assuming that Amazon does open its 25,000 employee office in Crystal City, Arlington residents most of whom are renters, should plan on a substantial increase in rents and housing costs. A recent forecast by a local realtor with McEnearney Brokers indicates that housing costs may rise in the 15-20 percent range as a direct result of HQ2. (http://www.mcenearney.com/blog/2018/11/impact-amazons-hq2-move-northern-virginia/). This rise will not happen over night as it will take a number of years before most of these 25,000 employees are hired (and as many as another 10,000 support workers are added), but it is clear that renters are going to be jeopardized.


Current home owners will reap an unexpected windfall, but only when they sell their residence and in the meantime will pay higher property taxes. Most homeowners are not interested in selling and leaving Arlington in the immediate future, and so they will experience an increase in their property taxes which now average about $7,000 a year. Homeowners–expect to pay another $1,000 to 1,400 a year in taxes.

Renters, who are about 55 percent of Arlington residents, are going to be severely impacted, and there is no upside for them but simply paying higher rents. The McEnearney analysis does not specifically indicate how much rents will rise, but indicates areas close to Crystal City both in Arlington and Alexandria will experience the highest rent pressure. It is certainly prudent to expect rents to rise by at least by half the rise expected for prices of homes and condos: this would mean a rent increase of 7-10 percent.

The average rent in Arlington in 2017 was about $2,000 per month for an apartment, and thus renters should expect a $140 to 200 a month increase in rents charged. Rents are much higher in high rise buildings (above $2,500) and lower in garden apartments ($1,800) so the effect will vary but most of the apartments in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yards are high rises.

There are fewer than 2,000 market rate apartments that are affordable to anyone earning 60-percent or less of the area median income in Arlington, and virtually none in these three areas. In 2013, there were 17,000 households earning 60% or less of the area median income (AMI) ($51,000 for a couple) who account for 30 percent of Arlington residents. (Arlington County Affordable Housing Master Plan, p. 37).

Most renters today earning 60 percent or less of the area median income are housing cost burdened, meaning they are paying more than one third of their income for rent. Another $200 a month in rent is going to further their housing burden, and in many cases they will leave Arlington for cheaper, far suburban areas like Loudon or Prince William Counties.

Arlington County Board has proposed to spend an additional $7 million a year to subsidize the construction of 100 units a year (a subsidy of $70,000 per unit). Unfortunately most of the $7 million will be absorbed by the housing builders and developers and only a few people will be able to get into these units.

Meanwhile, a 10-percent rent increase across the 50,000 apartment units in Arlington means that the total rent increase will be in the $100 million range, a great windfall for apartment complex owners but a loss for renters. The county board’s offer of $7 million would only cover an insignificant fraction of the total rent increase, and in essence is just window dressing.

About four years ago the county board adopted the affordable housing master plan with an annual goal of the county providing 630 households earning under 60% AMI with housing assistance to be able to rent an affordable unit in Arlington. https://housing.arlingtonva.us/affordable-housing-master-plan/ unfortunately the county added fewer than 300 units a year, and, last year, cut the amount of financial housing assistance for rental grants for seniors, disabled persons and families with a child, all of whom earn under 40-percent AMI.

The HQ2 will mean a worsening of the housing burden for all Arlington residents, and will disproportionately affect those lowest in income who tend to be black, Latinos, the elderly, the disabled and the young. The HQ2 deal is consistent with the unstated Arlington County’s goal for many years to displace lower income people and replace them with the affluent. It means a whiter, richer, and less diverse community with no place for working people, the elderly or young professional just starting their careers.

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