SEATTLE, Wash — The return of Downtown Seattle’s biggest employer is shaking things up. Starting this week, an estimated 55,000 Amazon workers are going back to work in person.
It comes after CEO Andy Jassy gave workers a May 1 deadline to return to their downtown offices at least three days per week, and local experts say impacts are already being felt.
While downtown businesses are looking forward to an economic boost, the shift may also create headaches for both commuters and Seattle renters.
"During the pandemic, so many people moved out of really a commutable distance," said Albert Squiers, a technology recruitment director for Seattle-based Fuel Talent. "Of the 20 or so engineers I've spoken with in the last couple of weeks, the majority are definitely frustrated with the situation."
That distance now seems daunting for many Amazon employees, according to one real estate expert who said many are moving back into the urban areas.
"Amazon workers that are coming back to town looking for alternative housing solutions," said Adriano Tori, founder and CEO of RexMont Real Estate.
Tori said he is seeing more demand for rentals.
"We are seeing actually, rents rise right now, and they are rising very rapidly," Tori said. "We see them rising-- for a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath-- we see them rising 6-7% depending on the communities."
Those communities aren't necessarily in downtown, according to Tori: "People are obviously concerned about safety."
Rather, he said, they are near it.
"Queen Anne, Ballard, Magnolia, Greenlake, where we had a tremendous amount of demand even during pre-COVID times, so all of those are going to surge 25-30%," said Tori.
Plus, traffic may get worse.
"More and more we are going to see the roads congested," said Tori.
Despite this, an Amazon spokesperson told KING5, "We're excited to have employees coming into the office more regularly because we believe it builds culture and connection among our teams and drives innovation on behalf of customers."
That spokesperson went on to say that Amazon will "address personal circumstances on an individual basis."
The mayor is in support of their return to office, too.
"Amazon, you stepped up in bringing your employees back," said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “We’re pushing it. We’re continuing to push it because we want people downtown. We have to make it safe, and I want to make it fun.”
In suburban communities, the real estate market is cooling, according to Tori.
He said that in cities like Auburn, Maple Valley, and Snohomish, the market was hot during the pandemic: a home up for sale spent six days on the market, on average, said Tori. Now, he said homes in those cities are averaging about 37 days on the market.