185th Station-Area Citizens Committee

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Working with the Regional Equity Network

by Brock Howell, Futurewise

Across America, we believe in a few basic values like making sure all people have an equal opportunity to success, treating your neighbor like you want to be treated, and making sure the next generation is a little better off.

So when it comes to building a strong community, we know that we're all in this together.

Unfortunately, too few people have a middle-class economic ladder. Across the region, the combined costs of housing and transportation put a tremendous strain on family budgets.

What works is making sure all people can live in places with easy access to jobs, education, and services. But unless cities allow for more housing and job opportunities near affordable and efficient transportation infrastructure like Link light rail, working families will be forced to live farther out, locked in traffic gridlock, and spend their paychecks at the gas pump.

And when people are forced to live farther out in disconnected places with few amenities, it's been shown that they walk and bike less, causing their health to deteriorate with chronic issues like heart disease and obesity. The increased health care costs then put additional burdens on the already strained family budgets.

We can do better for all people. And that's why we're excited about our partnership with the Central Puget Sound Regional Equity Network, or "Equity Network" for short.

Organized by Impact Capital (a community development financial institution) and funded through the Growing Transit Communities Partnership, the Equity Network brings together community organizations and advocates for social equity as well as cities, housing authorities, counties, public health agencies, affordable housing advocates, educational institutions, and development interests.

The goals of the Equity Network are to:

  • Ensure a social equity framework is used in all aspects of Growing Transit Communities through interaction with project committees, task forces and work groups, and community engagement.
  • Link community and equity organizations in the three major transit corridors.
  • Increase the capacity of underrepresented communities to effectively engage in planning and policy-making processes.
  • Implement and change policy to promote equitable outcomes.

To guide its collaborative effort and its policy recommendations, the Equity Network Steering Committee has established "Principles for Equitable Development."

  • Prevent displacement.
  • Preserve and expand affordable housing options.
  • Understand and respond to local context.
  • Promote broader mobility and connectivity.
  • Practice meaningful community engagement.
  • Develop healthy and safe communities.
  • Promote environmental justice.
  • Achieve full accessibility.

(click here to read the full description of the Principles for Equitable Development)

These principles are important. As we look to the future, the Central Puget Sound Region will grow by 1.5 million people over the next 30 years. Like most urban areas in the United States, most of these people will come from from elsewhere in the state, nation, and world, or will be the second generation of these new residents. And by 2040 the region will be "majority-minority."

If we are to grow our economy, we must grow the middle class by connecting more people to more opportunities. That means we must capitalize on the multi-billion dollar regional investment in Link light rail by making sure cities allow for more housing and jobs within a walking distance from the future stations.

These will not be easy decisions, after all, our very own neighborhoods are at stake. And these are complex decisions of planning and investment that have historically too often left out the voices of the disadvantaged and future generations.

That's why we must start by having simple conversations about our shared long-term hopes and values for our community.

So, as residents near Sound Transit's future Link light rail station at N. 185th Street and I-5, we're excited to be participating in a joint-project with the organization Futurewise, funded in-part by a small grant from the Equity Network.

Together, we'll be going door-to-door, talking neighbor-to-neighbor, engaging with local schools and churches, holding community forums and workshops, setting policy objectives tied to local planning efforts, and advocating before city and regional decision-makers.

We're excited to start this work. We hope you'll join us.

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