Amazon has completely transformed the face of retail over the past decade. But the super company is changing more than just the way Americans shop; it is also shaping our cities. Amazon's announcement that it plans to build a second company headquarters has stirred up a frenzy of excitement in cities across the country. 238 cities across North America have already submitted proposals to Amazon to be the site of the second headquarters, also known as HQ2. But will the Amazon Headquarters be a blessing or a curse to the city hosting it? Let's take a look.

Winning the Lottery

Amazon is promising 50,000 jobs to the city where it builds its second headquarters. These 50,000 new jobs would be primarily high paying, white collar positions, which would help stimulate the local economy. The monumental employment opportunity it proposes is very appealing to cities. Besides the 50,000 jobs, Amazon has estimated that they will invest 3 billion dollars into the construction of the new campus, which would be a huge boon to whatever city Amazon picks.

Cities vying for the new headquarters are also looking further down the road. They hope that the large Amazon headquarters will act as an anchor and draw more technology companies to their area. In addition, Amazon's presence would attract a lot of promising talent to whatever city they choose, and after a few years, those young professionals may defect from Amazon to build their own new companies in the city. In this way, HQ2 could be a springboard for new innovation and economic stimulus.

The Dark Side of Amazon

Some experts speculate that the new Amazon headquarters could result in less rosy results. Many worry that the smaller cities vying for the headquarters such as Worcester, Massachusetts or Pittsburgh, can not support such a massive project.

While 50,000 jobs would certainly help locals, it would also bring tens of thousands of new residents to whatever city Amazon picks, dramatically increasing the area's population in one fell swoop. Without expanding the city's existing infrastructure, the population influx could put a massive strain on city resources. Thousands of new residents fighting for a limited amount of housing is bound to cause rental prices to rocket skyward.

Amazon HQ2 infrastructure

And who exactly is benefitting from these 50,000 jobs? Most of the jobs Amazon is creating are for highly educated tech professionals. The tech industry as a whole tends to skew both white and male. While the prospect of 50,000 new jobs is exciting, for whatever city is chosen, the majority of residents will not be considered for these open positions. Long time residents will have to deal with an increase in housing and living costs, without benefiting from the wealth Amazon is bringing to their city.

Besides putting pressure on the housing supply, the mass influx of Amazon employees would put a strain on roadways, public transportation, and would most likely increase the city's carbon emissions.

Size Determines Impact

The impact of HQ2 will vary depending on which city wins the bid. Large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Washington DC, will be able to manage the influx of new workers more easily, but won't see as dramatic of economic gains.

Smaller cities such as Danbury, Connecticut and Raleigh, North Carolina would see greater economic stimulus from the project, but would also face greater challenges supporting such an undertaking.

CNN estimates that the new Amazon headquarters will cause housing prices to increase by 2 percent in the winning city, on top of any regular increases the city was already facing.

Amazon can be warehouse

In a city like Pittsburgh, which only has a population of 303,000, the new Amazon headquarters could increase the city's population by 16% in just a few months. Long considered an affordable city, Pittsburgh has seen rents shoot upwards in recent years. In the past year, rents in Pittsburgh have gone up 20.4% since January of 2011. If Pittsburgh were to win the HQ2 bid, rental prices in the city would only go up further.

Looking to the Past for Clues

If you want to see how the winning city will fare once Amazon rolls into town, look to its first headquarters. Amazon first opened in Seattle in 1994 and has grown to be one of the most influential companies in the city. With Microsoft, Boeing, and Starbucks, Amazon isn't the only big player in town. However, the rise of Amazon has paralleled the dramatic increase in housing prices across the city. Seattle's housing market has been one of the hottest in the country in recent years. Since 2011, the average rental price in Seattle has climbed a staggering 57.9%.

While Amazon's rise to power has definitely been a factor in Seattle's growing unaffordability, it has also been beneficial to the city. Amazon estimates it has added 38 billion dollars to Seattle's economy between 2011 and 2015.

As cities across North America duke it out to be the site of Amazon's second headquarters, the question that looms overhead is: will the prosperity Amazon ushers into the city of its choice benefit anyone besides Amazon itself? Learn more about how tech is affecting housing, or browse our rental listings to see for yourself.

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