Bethesda Beat: Amazon commits $24 million to affordable housing in North Bethesda The funding will go to 122 new homes.

DEC. 10, 2022 | Written by Akira Kyles and Steve Bohnel | BETHESDA BEAT

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. Dec. 10, 2022, to include comments from County Council Member Kate Stewart.

Amazon has committed $24 million to fund 122 new affordable homes in North Bethesda, as part of Strathmore Square, according to news reports.

Strathmore Square, by Fivesquares Development and Aimco, is an art-focused, healthy-living centric residential community at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station, according to Fivesquares Development website.

The community will include 2,000 units stretching across eight acres while also incorporating a central open space filled with performances, gardens, classrooms and more

Andy Altman, principal and co-founder of Fivesquares Development said that the project makes use at one of region’s scarcest resources — land near Metro stations.

“We are confident that it will be a national model of [transit-oriented development] centered on arts, culture, open space, and sustainable living—a community with a soul that will be brought to life by our partnership with adjacent Strathmore Music Center,” Altman said in a prepared statement.

The project is in County Council Member Kate Stewart’s (D-Dist. 4) district. Stewart wrote in an email that while the model used for this affordable housing project is a good one, county officials must consider many options — including The Housing Production Fund, a revolving loan fund that can be used in many ways.

“We need multiple tools that meet three goals – simplicity, speed, and scalability if we are going to make headway on building more affordable housing,” Stewart wrote.

In 2017, the county Planning Board and the County Council approved a minor master plan to allow the Strathmore Square project. A sketch plan was approved in 2018 and a preliminary plan was approved in 2019, according to a 2021 Bethesda Beat article.

According to an article by the Commercial Observer, developers will start the construction of two new high-rise buildings with 574 units soon, thanks to Amazon funding. Of the 574 units, 122 will be for those making 50 to 70 percent of area median income, which is $172,873 for a household of four.

Last year, Amazon committed $125 million in below-marker capital to expedite the development of 1,000 affordable homes so that moderate to low-income families in the Washington, D.C. region can afford to live in communities with easy access to employment, schools, health care, education, along with other services and amenities, according to a March news release from Amazon.

Stewart, who is also vice chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ board of directors, said the public and private sectors both play a critical role in addressing affordable housing.

“The government has a role to play in finding ways to partner with the private sector to make things happen, but development near transit cannot only rely on private investment,” Stewart wrote in an email. “When these opportunities arise we should absolutely find ways to harness private investments to increase our housing stock, especially affordable housing near transit and continue to advocate for greater federal and state resources for projects.”