July 26, 2016

Housing Across America With the Millennial Trains Project

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By Rachel Reilly Carroll, Enterprise Community Loan Fund

In one week I will hop on board a vintage train with a cohort of 25 millennials to advance ideas and causes that speak to the defining issues of our time. Over the course of seven days, I will spend time talking with leaders and residents about housing and transportation in five cities: Pittsburgh; Chicago; Kansas City, Missouri; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Los Angeles.

Each of these cities is either planning or making investments to expand their public transit system, and I am researching how communities are being impacted and whether those investments are being leveraged to create opportunity for low-income and working families. Investment in transit spurs economic development, reshapes communities, and has the potential to improve the economic mobility for those who can easily access it. This is why many think access to transit is a matter of civil rights.

My organization, Enterprise Community Partners, is leading a national conversation on the important role transit plays in promoting economic mobility, especially when that transit is located near homes that are affordable to low-income families. In many cities, low-income and working families can no longer afford to live in communities with good access to public transit. As a result, social networks are unraveling and economic sustainability is increasingly at risk.

This Dynamic Is Playing out in My Own Community in Washington, D.C.

I serve as an advisory neighborhood commissioner representing a transit-rich neighborhood where, over the next three years, developers are slated to invest $5 billion to create new luxury apartments, retail and office buildings. Twenty percent of our current residents live in public housing, and my charge is to ensure that they will have the opportunity to stay in the community so that they too can benefit from the new jobs, stores and improved schools that will result from this growth.

The cities I am visiting are in various stages of economic development and growth, but all view transit as key to their economic growth. Are these cities proactively planning to provide affordable housing opportunities for their workforce – the engine driving their economy – and low-income residents who will prosper with enhanced connectivity?

The journey is being led by the Millennial Trains Project, which has been hailed as a game-changer for leadership development, community engagement and social entrepreneurship. The opportunity to explore how transit impacts economic mobility is being sponsored by Make Room, a campaign to raise awareness of our nation’s rental housing crisis, and the Transit Center, an organization working to set a national transportation reform agenda.

Follow Along With Me

Follow along as I post blog updates on Housing Horizons. You can also keep up with my trip on Instagram and Twitter at @RachelReillyC, @MakeRoomUSA and @MillenialTrain.

Photo courtesy of Millennial Trains Project