While Amazon considers Washington, D.C., as one of the potential locations to build its second corporate headquarters, Washingtonians should be wary of this apparent economic boon.
Though D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has touted the construction of Amazon’s HQ2 as a way to further expand the local economy, the arrival of Amazon would exacerbate the city’s economic issues and drive out current residents. As such, D.C. should not welcome Amazon’s arrival.
Amazon’s plan to construct a second headquarters that would supplement its existing campus in Seattle, where it has been based for 23 years, has set off a bidding war between hundreds of cities, states, districts and territories. The company is expected to announce the winner of the laurels by early next year.
D.C. is among many cities enthusiastically pursuing this bid, and the benefits to the District appear obvious: Amazon’s headquarters would create around 50,000 jobs and bring $5 billion dollars in infrastructure investment over the next 10 to 15 years to wherever it chooses, according to The Washington Post.
Seattle has become a technology hub with the arrival of companies like Amazon, and it may seem like an enviable model for D.C. to emulate. Yet, a closer look reveals serious issues with this possibility.
HQ2 presents an opportunity to make the District home to the United States’ largest internet retailer and the world’s largest cloud computing provider.
The headquarters would also give D.C. tangible benefits like tax revenue — despite the tax breaks the District plans to offer the company — as well as indirect benefits, such as the possibility that Amazon would attract other technology firms to set up shop in D.C., which would also boost the economy.
Yes, it is true that the construction of Amazon’s headquarters would introduce economic opportunity into the District. At the same time, there is a stark mismatch between the opportunities that would be created and the needs of D.C. residents.
Many of the jobs created would not go to current Washingtonians, but rather would attract high-skilled technology workers from across the country, as USA Today noted. These high-skilled, higher-income workers would drive up D.C.’s already sky-high housing prices and push low-income native residents out of their homes and neighborhoods.
Rather than benefitting the current residents of the District, the construction of Amazon’s new headquarters would only exacerbate issues that already plague D.C., such as income inequality and a lack of affordable housing. This possibility can be seen in the detrimental effects that have struck Seattle, home to Amazon’s flagship corporate headquarters.
D.C. is already suffering a severe housing crisis: As gentrification worsens, rapidly rising housing prices continue to evict longtime low-income residents from their homes, according to outlets such as NPR.
Meanwhile, Seattle has become one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. According to The Seattle Times, the median price of a home in the city has increased 17.6 percent over the last year.
As confirmed by several studies, including reports by The Hoya, income inequality in the District is deeply influenced by race, with black residents disproportionately bearing the burden of low wages and often facing the effects of gentrification. Seattle is also one of the metro areas with the fastest-growing income inequality in the country.
Although Seattle’s rapidly rising housing costs and increased income inequality are not solely the fault of Amazon, the presence of the company — and of headquarters of other technology powerhouses such as Microsoft — has transformed Seattle into a knowledge center where high-skilled laborers attracted to the technology hub often push out native residents. The same could very well happen in D.C.
Residents of the District face among the highest costs of living in the country, pervasive racial income inequality and a severe housing crisis. An influx of thousands of high-skilled technology workers would only aggravate the worst issues currently facing Washingtonians, in particular low-income residents who are often already being pushed out of their homes.
Building Amazon’s HQ2 in one of the proposed D.C. locations, which include the Shaw-Howard University area, the Capitol East neighborhood and the Anacostia riverfront, would further intensify the displacement of low-income residents in these areas.
Amazon’s arrival in D.C. may create economic growth, but it would bring with it a host of negative externalities that the District must seriously consider and, ultimately, reject.
If Amazon were to really consider the needs of the city where it ultimately moves, it should seek to revitalize a struggling area in the Midwest where such a project could potentially transform the trajectory of the city.
In an area where decades of declining American manufacturing and severe population outfluxes have devastated the economy, a pivot to the technology sector and its accompanying economic boons would be welcomed with open arms, despite potential social ramifications such as gentrification and rising income inequality.
Amazon: Move to Pittsburgh, Detroit or St. Louis. Anywhere but D.C.