Advocates Call for Equity, Affordable Housing Along Purple Line

About 100 people gathered outside the Brigadier General Charles McGee Library in Silver Spring where the Purple Line will traverse to learn how to ensure that the light rail line brings affordable housing, jobs and rebirth to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The 16-mile route from Bethesda to New Carollton is set to open in 2024.

Wednesday morning, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition released its 55-page equity strategy report that details how to help underserved communities along the route, rather than having residents there not be able to afford their homes.

“The only way we are going to continue building a corridor that provides economic opportunities, provides smart growth, provides transit oriented solutions, but doing so in a fair and equitable way, making sure that residents who live their today and residents who choose to make it their home tomorrow” is to follow the report, said Councilmember Evan Glass, who sported a purple tie.

Transit projects have a history of ruining neighborhoods, said Executive Marc Elrich. “We have to make sure Montgomery County tells a different story.”

The county has set aside $100 million to assist nonprofits in purchasing housing as soon as it goes on the market, thus making it unavailable to landlords who would otherwise greatly increase rents, forcing those who already live there to have to find more affordable housing elsewhere, Elrich noted.

Gerrit Knapp, director of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, stressed that the transit stops along the Purple Line must be accessible to pedestrian and bicyclists, connect with bus lines and incorporate inclusive economic growth.

“We need to emphasize people over cars,” Knapp said.

The report focuses on combatting displacement of current residents and businesses.

“This is a report worth celebrating,” said U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin. It helps guide the way for fair and affordable housing with strong, diverse communities.

“The Purple Line is going to unite communities,” he said.

The goal is to connect those without cars to jobs, health care, shopping and food, said Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, whose District 20 includes seven Purple Line stations. She estimated that the light rail will keep 17,000 cars off the roads annually.

“We value equity, and we will leave no community behind,” she said, urging all in attendance not to put the report on the shelf but rather “make this an action document, a living document.”

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said his organization “strongly supports the Purple Line, noting that people who live in Langley Park and work in Bethesda currently spend two hours on public transportation. Once the Purple Line opens, that will drop to 15 minutes.

“That is the reason we believe the Purple Line is going to transform members’ lives,” Torres said.

At the end of the 90-minute speeches, David Bowers, cochair of Enterprise Community Partners, called on everyone involved in the Purple Line to always think of “Robert,” who he described as the person without the means to sit at the executive table when decisions are being made and yet has the greatest to gain or lose when the Purple Line becomes a reality.

“The track will get laid. People will make billions of dollars,” he said. “The question is, will the Roberts of the world benefit?”

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