Real Estate

How the Arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 Could Affect Washington Rents

The results of a new analysis by Zillow might surprise you

Image via Amazon.

One of the biggest fears about the potential arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters is that it will raise the cost of Washington’s already super-expensive housing. At least for rentals, the price hike in our area might not be quite as painful as you thought, according to a study just published by online real-estate company Zillow.

Zillow’s research—which included analyzing how rents in the 17 metro markets on Amazon’s shortlist responded to the arrival of other workforces in recent years—indicates that the effect on DC-area rents will be relatively modest if we win the HQ2 sweepstakes (DC, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County are all in the running). The current median rent in the greater Washington area is $2,146 a month, according to Zillow. If Amazon moves here in 2019, the study projects an additional increase of 0.6% on top of the already anticipated 0.5% rent growth without Amazon. That would bring the monthly median to $2,170.

Compared to other places in the running—such as Nashville and Denver, which Zillow predicts will experience an additional 2.4% and 2.3% increase—Washington’s rents are among the least impacted, thanks to the fact that we have a significant supply of new apartments in the pipeline. As the study states: “In many respects, the results are intuitive. Smaller markets and/or markets with a record of less responsive (or “elastic,” in economist-speak) housing supply should expect a larger increase in rent growth.”

Of course, Amazon will take years to hire all 50,000 workers it forecasts bringing to HQ2. The Zillow study notes: “If staffing initially ramps up at a faster pace, the boost to rent appreciation could be higher during the early years and then taper as the pace of hiring slows.”

Another factor the analysis doesn’t take into account: “second-order effects”—i.e. the arrival of even more new residents because of other businesses that pop up around HQ2, as has happened at the original Seattle headquarters.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.