Seattle Business Tax Angers Amazon To No Purpose Without ‘Up-Zoning’

Magnolia Library photo by Jules Antonio is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Upscale library in upscale Magnolia, a Seattle district with an affordable housing killer reputation.

Seattle, with the third largest homeless population in the country, can be excused for generating money for affordable housing construction by levying a tax on big business. Amazon, one of the world’s biggest business and headquartered in Seattle, acted in the interests of its shareholders and balked at the tax. Seattle compromised, chopping its affordable housing ambitions in half. Amazon, unappeased, may take its business elsewhere.

In the grand scheme of things, does Amazon owe Seattle for hosting its enormous business success, which has driven up the cost of land and pushed house prices through the roof? Or does Seattle owe Amazon for bringing prosperity and employment that has fuelled the booming success of the city?

Regardless of public opinion, Amazon is completely dispassionate about any notional debt to the city. Its primary duty is to its shareholders, and if it could be shown profitable for the giant corporation to cut and run from Seattle, it would doubtless do so.

The question for Seattle becomes: is there anything to be gained in playing chicken with Amazon? A key consideration in formulating an answer to this question is whether it can effectively spend the money it collects from an affordable housing-targeted business tax.

One surprising answer is that the dollars it wrings from corporations in the city (of which Amazon pays the lion’s share) cannot actually build affordable housing without rezoning that would allow the housing to be built.

The problem for Seattle is this: if it runs scared from Amazon, it runs twice as scared from the hardcore NIMBYites who live there. Systematic obstruction of affordable housing proposals is a mission for Seattle homeowners and they have a history of relentless grinding the city’s affordable housing proposals to a halt.

These are not small-c conservatives who reject subsidizing the homeless and low-wage workers. These are progressives to the core who vote Democrat, love the homeless and low-wage workers and are more than happy to support their housing, just so long as it is built somewhere else.

Is Seattle is trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea? Is its taxation of Amazon a pointless exercise if the city is unable to use the money it collects? Read more from the Capital Research Centre:  Zoned For Homelessness



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