Seattle's thriving economy has helped drive up real estate prices. Yesterday, its city council unanimously approved a new tax on its biggest companies in an effort to build more affordable housing.
The tax would apply to companies like Amazon that gross at least $20 million annually, costing about $275 annually per employee. The levy would expire in five years, unless renewed. Tax supporters say it will help as more than 41 percent of Seattle renters are cost-burdened, and that the city has the third-largest homeless population in the U.S. CNBC reports that Amazon's vice president says the move "forces us to question our growth here." Forty elected officials responded in an open letter, "By threatening Seattle over this tax, Amazon is sending a message to all of our cities: we play by our own rules."
Amazon, the city's largest employer, said after the vote that it would go ahead with planning for a major downtown office building that it earlier had put on hold over its objections to a much stiffer tax plan originally proposed. However, company vice president Drew Herdener said, "We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here."