In a surprise move, Amazon is planning to split its second headquarters between two sites as opposed to choosing just one location.
According to The Wall Street Journal, HQ2 will be located in Long Island City (an area of Queens in New York City) and the Crystal City area of Arlington, VA – a Washington D.C. suburb.
It still hasn't been reported how Amazon's promised 50,000 new jobs or $5 billion investment will be split between the two, but one thing's certain – each city will see a significant impact on apartment rental prices.
Renters who live in Long Island City are already familiar with steep rent costs, being so close to New York City. In November 2017, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $2,780, while the average rent for two-bedrooms was $3,885. These prices were high, for sure, but manageable if one was splitting the costs with roommates.
By Jan. 18, 2018, Amazon whittled 238 cities in contention for HQ2 down to 20 with Long Island City being on that shortlist. Now close to one year after that "Final 20" announcement, the rent for a one-room apartment has increased to $3,043 – that's 9.5 percent, which isn't too bad. Unfortunately, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment shot to $4,432 – a 14.1 percent upwards spike.
Did the news of HQ2's possible arrival increase Long Island City's average rent? Consider this – the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, in the same time frame (November 2017 to November 2018) crept up from $3,520 to $3,741 while rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased from $5,298 to $5,622 – that's a 6.3 percent and 6.1 percent increase, respectively. Considerably lower than Long Island City.
Trends don't look much better for renters Crystal City. While the overall costs for apartments are lower and more affordable, monthly rent increased at an alarmingly higher rate than Long Island City.
In the same time frame used above, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Crystal City in November 2017 was $1,361, while a two-bedroom would set you back $1,784 a month.
Fast forward to November 2018 and the average one-bedroom Crystal City apartment is still relatively affordable at $1,654, while the average for a two-bedroom is $2,282. But do the math and you'll see that the rent of Crystal City's one-bedroom apartment increased 21.5 percent, while the average two-bedroom apartment skyrocketed 27.9 percent.
Considering that many of Amazon's HQ2 jobs are reported to come with annual salaries of more than $100,000, two grand for a two-bedroom apartment seems highly affordable, but what will happen to Crystal City's current apartment renters who aren't pulling down six figures annually?
It's impossible to predict how the reported arrival of HQ2 will alter the rent of apartments in Long Island City or Crystal City, but we can get a pretty good picture of how things will play out by looking at Seattle, the founding city of Amazon proper.
Amazon has been good for Seattle's economy. The Emerald City experienced years of strong job growth, low unemployment and steady wage gains, but it's also become a city that's known for high rental prices. Rent in Seattle rivals cities like Manhattan, Los Angeles and Boston.
Are apartment renters in Long Island City and Crystal City ready for the inevitable?