Amazon's urban campus in Seattle, Wash. (Jordan Stead / Amazon)

Amazon's move into Seattle drastically changed the city's housing market. Read more about Seattle's affordability, rising rents, lessons learned, and bigger housing issues in this four-part series from the Hanley Wood Data Studio.

Now, the Seattle City Council has voted to impose a tax on the city’s largest companies to fund more affordable housing and fight homelessness, reports Gregory Scruggs for CityLab.

Scruggs says the tax will charge $275 per employee to build or preserve nearly 900 units of affordable housing and provide wraparound services for the homeless. With 45,000 workers at its downtown Seattle campus, the city’s largest employer is expected to account for about a third of the $47 million that will be collected annually for the next five years.

The tax passed was a compromise, expected to raise about $47 million to address a citywide housing crisis, down from $75 million in the initial bill. Nearly 40 elected city officials from all corners of the U.S., including from metros bracing for Amazon HQ2 like Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C., signed an open letter on Monday urging Seattle City Council to stay the courseand criticizing Amazon’s tactics during the head tax debate.

“This is particularly concerning to us given Amazon’s approach to the competition for HQ2, in which the company has promoted a bidding war of jurisdictions competing with each other to offer greater incentive packages,” the letter read. “If Amazon were serious about its support for strong affordable housing solutions, it would fully back this tax proposal and chip in to help address Seattle’s homelessness crisis. By threatening Seattle over this tax, Amazon is sending a message to all of our cities: We play by our own rules.”

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