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An artist's rendition of the new Plymouth Housing building underway on Rainier Avenue South in the Chinatown-International District.
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An artist's rendition of the new Plymouth Housing building underway on Rainier Avenue South in the Chinatown-International District.
Credit: Plymouth Housing

Amazon, Microsoft back new push to house the homeless in Seattle

Some of the Seattle area’s biggest businesses are backing a $75 million fund-raising effort by Plymouth Housing to build permanent homes for 800 homeless people.

At a news conference Tuesday, Plymouth announced it has raised $48.8 million toward that goal, with new contributions from Microsoft, Amazon, Connie and Steve Ballmer and others.

Providence St. Joseph Health, Swedish Health Services and Premera Blue Cross had already pledged $15 million.

Plymouth said it hopes to use the money to leverage another $250 million from the local, state and federal governments and build eight new buildings.

The first five buildings will be in the Chinatown-International District, Uptown and First Hill neighborhoods, Plymouth said, with a four-year timeline.

Construction is already underway on the first building, in Rainier Avenue South in the CID. It’s scheduled to open in spring 2020 with 105 studio apartments and retail space.

Plymouth said some of the money would establish an endowment for support services and a fund to maintain existing housing.

Amazon pledged $5 million toward the Seattle campaign.

Amazon Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Brian Olsavsky said Amazon is giving to Plymouth Housing because the group has fewer barriers and prioritizes getting homeless people into permanent housing.

"Especially in Seattle, where we're seeing the homeless crisis, we're definitely looking for ways to get people off the streets and permanently fix that problem," Olsavsky said.

Olsavsky also said a separate company fund would match contributions from Amazon employees.

Amazon said it's also giving $3 million to a similar effort for the homeless in Arlington, Virginia.

The company's HQ2 is being built there, and the influx of thousands of workers will strain the housing supply in an already tight market.

Microsoft is also backing the Plymouth Housing project with a $5 million pledge.

But overall it’s giving far more than Amazon toward affordable housing in the Seattle area. It has said it plans to put about $500 million into the effort.