Amazon is Coming to Town

Yeah, okay, it’s happening again. Don’t hesitate. Don’t prevaricate. Just write.

Housing, of course, has not improved since I last wrote here. Some could argue (and I have) that things have taken a decided downturn since Ben Carson was put in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Hurricanes Maria (and others!) have left hundreds homeless, with few plans to rehouse and rebuild. With Amazon promising to to break free from its Seattle home and expand to one of 20 additional cities in the United States, housing prices will soon skyrocket at unprecedented rates in one lucky urban area.

For this return to posting I would like to focus on Amazon and the impact they will have wherever they build their new headquarters. Below are a handful of stories that explain how housing prices will rise and what citizens can do to slow the burst.

1. Politico shows how the negative repercussions of Amazon on Seattle, including high housing prices. The article also explains Seattle’s unique properties that enabled Amazon to thrive. Other cities may not provide the incubation needed for unmitigated company growth.

2. Trulia determined that the top three most affordable cities for Amazon employees are Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Columbus. Note, these cities are not always affordable to current residents (especially those who make minimum wage) but they are overall less expensive than other cities on Amazon’s short-list

3. Apartment List analyzed data from the US Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank the short-list cities by potential Amazon-induced rent increase. Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Nashville, Tennessee will have the greatest percent increase (1.2-2%). Chicago will see rents increase by .4-.6% citywide. The website does not break down the data by neighborhood, so it is unclear if this increase will happen equally throughout the city or if it will concentrate in certain areas.

5. The Brookings Institute generated a map showing which cities on the short-list have the most capacity for growth based on current zoning regulations, housing market trends, rent prices, and available office space. Chicago does not have as much local protest against gentrification and scores well on the aforementioned criteria, grouping it among the prime candidates for Amazon’s HQ2.

4. Housing advocates in Miami worry that Amazon could exacerbate an already precarious housing market. Amazon has proven its ability to drive up housing costs in Seattle and the company has no plans for mitigating this effect in other cities.

5. Experts from Trulia and Zillow claim that because Chicago’s real estate market is somewhat depressed due to factors such as the Great Recession and a reduced population, an influx of new Amazon workers (and spenders) will provide a welcome boost to the city. Chicago has more space to expand, they contend, and therefore is a good candidate for the new headquarters. Still, John Joe Schlichtman, co-author of the book Gentrifier, believes that if Amazon does not select their site with care, they could widen the city’s already noteworthy economic gap.

I will have more updates on the implications of Amazon’s expansion when the final city is announced in 2018.

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