The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors has awarded The Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) a $75,000 grant to safeguard affordable housing along the tracks of Maryland’s Purple Line Light Rail. The grant, part of the new Housing Affordability Planning Program (HAPP) and backed by the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, was one of 10 awarded to support regional projects that address transit-oriented affordable and low-incoming housing initiatives.
“There’s broad regional consensus that we need more action on housing, which is why I am so pleased to have this new partnership among governments, businesses and nonprofits to produce a much-needed spark,” said Chuck Bean, COG Executive Director, in a press release earlier this month. “These HAPP grants will help ensure that everyone—from longtime residents and future workers to young families and older adults—has an opportunity to live and thrive together in our communities.”
The grant, says PLCC Director Sheila Somashekhar, is an integral step in meeting the coalition’s “no net loss” housing goal, ensuring the preservation and production of affordable units in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties along the corridor. The grant will fund data collection and analysis to track affordable units and the coalition’s progress, as well as ongoing, on-the-ground efforts with the counties and communities along the line to protect affordable housing stock.
“This award speaks to years of work by the coalition,” she said. “The funding is key to supporting our efforts to engage property owners, secure affordability commitments and deploy the capital and technical support to make those properties affordable long term. Ideally, we hope the efforts will serve as a model for other places as well.”
Formed in 2013, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition comprises community organizations, state and local governments, nonprofits, philanthropies and businesses whose mission is to develop a vision and strategy for vibrant economic and community development along the Purple Line Light Rail. The PLCC is administered by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth.
The grant comes on the heels of significant affordable housing progress led by coalition partners over the past year, including a $5 million capital investment from Kaiser Permanente and new commitments to support solutions for the residents of more than 4,800 distressed and aging housing units along the corridor.
With the Purple Line completion date pushed to 2026, work continues to build and promote robust action plans to preserve small businesses, build pedestrian accessibility and support workforce development. The coalition is developing bike and pedestrian plan recommendations with local experts and continues their work to ensure corridor residents are connected with effective workforce services. The coalition’s small business working group is providing hands-on support and advocacy for corridor businesses facing accelerated rents, property maintenance issues and accessibility constraints from Purple Line construction.
A comprehensive equitable transit-oriented development plan for the corridor will be released in early fall to county and state representatives and the Federal Transit Agency (FTA), the result of a 2018 FTA-backed $2 million grant. The plan, says Gerrit Knaap, director of the National Center for Smart Growth, will offer a blueprint for the future of the Purple Line corridor.
“We have a rare opportunity with the Purple Line to create a national model for transit-adjacent communities that are equitable, vibrant places for years to come,” he said.