Downsides of prosperity: Seattle writer warns Vancouverites of Amazon impact
'It’s had a really dramatic effect on the city itself in terms of demand for housing,' says columnist
Cities around North America have been vying for Amazon to choose them as the site for their second headquarters and Vancouver is no exception, with the province kicking in $50,000 to help prepare a bid.
The deadline for bids was Thursday and with it, comes the end of the contest for a multi-billion dollar prize. Some residents of Seattle, however, are warning bidders to beware — there are no upsides without downsides.
Knute Berger is a magazine columnist in Seattle, where Amazon set up base in 1994. Berger said while there may be benefits, he has seen some of the costs to inviting in the retail giant.
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"It's had a really dramatic effect on the city itself in terms of demand for housing and the housing market and the costs that come along with prosperity but very unequal prosperity," he told CBC guest host of On The Coast Gloria Macarenko.
He agreed that there are other factors that can drive up housing costs — as has happened in Vancouver, without Amazon's influence — but said bringing in a large tech company and all its employees can place a further toll on housing.
"Amazon has been building its campuses and leasing property within the city of Seattle and the building of housing has not been able to keep up with that demand," he said.
At the same time though, Berger said, he understands the appeal.
He said he thinks people are encouraged by the jobs Amazon provides. For the second headquarters, the company is promising 50,000 high-paying jobs and a $5-billion US investment.
"We're sort of always given this choice which is, 'Well, do you not want those jobs?' I think people in Seattle feel that no, we'd love to have those jobs, but we feel that companies like Amazon ought to pay more of the costs," he said.
Berger said bringing in a company like Amazon is a balancing act.
"It's a matter of all of us being conscious of cause-and-effect," he said. "It's really important not to … anticipate that prosperity only has an upside — it doesn't."
With files from On The Coast.