January 20, 2017

Building Equitable Communities Along the Purple Line

The Bonifant

By Jessica Sorrell, Mid-Atlantic program director

Photo: The Bonifant —149 affordable senior homes in downtown Silver Spring, developed by Montgomery Housing Partnership —located next to the new Silver Spring Library and steps away from a planned Purple Line stop.

How does our community gain maximum benefit from the once-a-generation opportunity provided by the construction of the Purple Line?

Last week, I joined more than 40 people at a policy forum hosted by our long-time partner, Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) at the offices of CohnReznick in downtown Bethesda. The topic: how to leverage the Purple Line – the planned 16-mile, bi-county, light rail line in DC’s Maryland suburbs – and benefit from what people have learned across the country.

The forum started with Gerrit Knaap, executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth at University of Maryland, setting the context of the Purple Line project and the demographics of the area surrounding the line. (Key parts of Gerrit’s presentation – including great maps and demographic research -- can be found here.) Gerrit also outlined the goals of the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) to work on issues of housing affordability, small business retention, workforce development and placemaking. One of his most striking maps was the analysis of housing across the corridor with affordability restrictions expiring by 2020.

Tony To, executive director of Homesight in Seattle, spoke next. Homesight has been a neighborhood partner and homeownership housing developer for more than 25 years and began doing equitable transit-oriented development work (eTOD) after a new light rail line extended into its community. As a result of that construction, nearly one in five of the community’s 400 businesses were lost.

Homesight committed to preventing that level of economic displacement and disruption in other communities across Seattle as new transportation investments arrived. Tony highlighted the success that Seattle has had fulfilling that goal. Its progress started with development of its Regional Equity Atlas, which showed the location of populations that were marginalized or at risk of displacement. The Atlas also helped guide the projects that have resulted from the region’s Sustainable Communities Initiative work.

Most recently, Seattle launched the Seattle 2035 comprehensive plan, which embeds core values of race and social equity into the way the city addresses issues of transportation, land development and community engagement. Tony lifted up some of the great tools that Seattle is deploying to assist in eTOD, such as a mitigation fund for impacted businesses and the new Regional Equitable Development Initiative Fund (REDI), the creation of which was led by Enterprise. Tony closed his presentation by challenging the audience to bring the most impacted communities to the table and give them decision-making authority, as well as providing these residents, business owners and neighborhoods community planning support.

Rachel Reilly Carroll of the Enterprise Community Loan Fund wrapped up the initial presentations by highlighting best practices from Enterprise markets such as Atlanta and Denver. Rachel noted the recent success and expansion of our Denver Regional TOD Fund, which as of last year had provided over $24 million for the creation or preservation of more than 1,160 affordable homes and over 100,000 square feet of community space at 13 transit-accessible properties across the region.

The forum included – both during the session and afterwards – discussions of a few key topics: how to promote equity in meaningful ways; how to create financing tools that are relevant to the Purple Line; and how to continue effective collaboration among stakeholders. Enterprise looks forward to continued conversation and, more important, bold action to address housing affordability along the Purple Line!

For questions about our work along the Purple Line, please contact Jess Sorrell at jsorrell@enterprisecommunity.org.

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