British Columbia

Not so fast, says Vancouver councillor ahead of city's bid for Amazon headquarters

Adriane Carr says her biggest concern is the impact that 50,000 high paying jobs would have on housing and rental prices, if Amazon decides to set up a second headquarters in Vancouver.

Seattle residents blame the company for rising rents and changing neighbourhood over last decade

Not everyone is excited about the city's attempt to woo Amazon into building its $5 billion headquarters in Vancouver. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

The promise of 50,000 high paying jobs isn't enough to convince city councilor Adriane Carr that bidding to be the next North American home for retail giant Amazon is the right move for Vancouver.

The city's lone Green party councillor is calling for a report on potential impacts the move would have on affordable housing, transportation and small business before the city's bid to welcome Amazon's HQ2 project goes forward.

"My concern was that council wasn't even informed about this, that we didn't have the opportunity to say at the very beginning of this, let's be very thoughtful about it," she told CBC On the Stephen Quinn.

Amazon sent out a request for proposal nearly two weeks ago and said it will hire up to 50,000 employees, with an average annual salary of $100,000 US over the next 15 years for its second location.

Carr, who raised her concerns to council on Tuesday night, said her main concern is that a large number of high paying jobs coming to a city that is "really in a housing crisis" could drive prices even higher if affordable housing stock is not first increased.

Amazon's original headquarters are located in Seattle's Capitol Hill area, where residents have previously blamed Amazon for rising rents and the changing skyline that sports newly-built office towers and high rise condos.

Carr admitted she was unfamiliar with challenges in Seattle but argued the $5 billion construction project is just too big to go forward without weighing the pros and cons.

"We [would] be called together as a council to pursue a bid for a major sporting event. You think we would be called together as a council to provide some wisdom and insight and make sure the public interest is protected on something as big as this," said Carr.

Potential to increase wage competition

The group responsible for winning Amazon's favour is the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), headed by Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Both Robertson and the VEC expressed support for the bid, which is being pursued by a number of other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and others.

The VEC did not provide a statement to CBC News before deadline.

Bill Tam, the president and CEO of the BC Tech Association, told CBC News he believes the tech sector is behind the bid and is hoping to see some positive effects that bringing in a large company like Amazon may have, such as wage competition that could drive up salaries.

That, said Tam, is a good thing for a city with an affordability problem.

"There's no question that Vancouver is among the highest cost-of-living jurisdictions and having wage levels that start to mirror the cost of living here is a positive outcome."

With files from On the Coast and Robert Parker