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Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund Leader Catherine Buell Steps Down

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Catherine Buell, director of Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, is stepping down from her role, according to the e-commerce giant. 

The Amazon (AMZN) Housing Equity Fund is the company’s $2 billion fund to help assuage the affordable housing crisis in the areas where it operates, particularly the D.C. area, Puget Sound and Nashville.

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The fund offers low-rate loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and nontraditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. 

In the D.C. Metro area alone, where Amazon’s HQ2 is being finalized, the fund has passed the $1 billion mark to help create or preserve more than 6,500 affordable homes in the past two years.

For example, in February, Banneker Ventures, a Silver Spring, Md.-based development company, secured a $20 million loan from the Amazon fund to build 193 affordable housing units as part of its $85 million Park Place development in Capitol Heights, Md.

In December, the Washington Housing Conservancy acquired Loree Grand, a 212-unit apartment community at 250 K Street NE in Washington, D.C., for $71.5 million, with some financing provided by the fund.

Buell, who joined Amazon in 2020, has been instrumental in helping these deals come together, starting with its initial $381.9 million commitment for the Washington Housing Conservancy to acquire Crystal House, a 16-acre site one block from HQ2, to create and preserve 1,300 affordable housing units. 

“We’re grateful for Catherine’s leadership and wish her all the best as she pursues new opportunities,” a spokesperson for Amazon told Commercial Observer by email. “Since launching the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, we’ve committed over $1.6 billion to help build and preserve more than 12,000 affordable homes in our hometown communities and we will continue to invest in this space, in partnership with local and diverse organizations.”

Senthil Sankaran, a principal for Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, will take on the role of interim head for the Housing Equity Fund team.

Over his career, Sankaran has served as senior vice president and director for D.C. Housing Authority, senior director of development for national developer Edens, and director of development for D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development.

The news was first reported by the Washington Business Journal.

Amazon has had a tough year, already laying off 27,000 employees in 2023, halting advancement on parts of HQ2 and closing more than a dozen Amazon Fresh stores.

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.