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Amazon in Seattle: The Role of Business in Causing and Solving a Housing Crisis

Amazon in Seattle: The Role of Business in Causing and Solving a Housing Crisis
April 23, 2024

In 2020, Amazon built a shelter for women and families experiencing houselessness on its campus in Seattle, Washington. The shelter was operated in partnership with a nonprofit organization known as Mary’s Place and was designed to address what had become an urgent problem for Seattle and many other wealthy American cities, where communities were being displaced by a lack of affordable housing.

Amazon’s partnership with Mary’s Place was an experiment in addressing this problem at its core, using some of the firm’s own resources to fund living space for unhoused families. But critics argued that Amazon’s apparent charity was misplaced because the company and other tech giants were actually making the problem worse. Instead, they argued, government and nonprofits should solve these societal issues.

Harvard Business School professors Debora Spar and Paul Healy explore the role business plays in causing and addressing the larger problem of unhoused communities in American cities in the case, “Hitting Home: Amazon and Mary’s Place.”

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