The College Park City-University Partnership discussed its Community Preservation Trust and collaboration with the University of Maryland Tuesday during a College Park City Council presentation.

The partnership, created in 1997, seeks to promote economic development and a sustainable community for both the city and university. In 2023, the partnership launched the Community Preservation Trust, which aims to provide affordable homeownership to College Park community members facing rising housing prices.

Susan Slingluff Hartmann, the partnership’s executive director, said during the presentation that 2023 was a “huge” year for developing the Community Preservation Trust. The trust was established in May and purchased its first home in September, she said.

“We’re a model in the state and that’s really exciting,” Hartmann said. “That’s been a huge lift this year and something we’re really proud of.”

Since September, the trust has purchased five homes and sold two of them, Hartmann said. It has also raised $15 million in federal, state and city funding to support its efforts.

[College Park City Council considers loosening eligibility for rent subsidy program]

District 3 council member John Rigg said he believes the trust could do a better job serving potential student and resident homeowners in his district. District 3 includes College Park’s Old Town neighborhood and has higher home costs than other areas of the city because of high rental turnover, Rigg said.

“It needs to be effective in all our neighborhoods,” Rigg said.

By not creating affordable housing in Old Town, the city is writing off a great opportunity for students and residents, he added.

To be eligible for the trust, a household’s income needs to be less than 140 percent of the median family income, which is the program’s cutoff. But higher housing costs have made it difficult to serve eligible households and keep them from becoming cost burdened, Hartmann said.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a cost burdened household is one that spends more than 30 percent of its income on rent and utilities.

[College Park City Council decides vacancy tax subcommittee’s initial responsibilities]

Hartmann expressed enthusiasm about the partnership’s future activities to bridge the gap between the city and this university, including the Campus Drive Bike Path’s development. This path will be on the north side of Campus Drive between the Trolley Trail and Route 1, according to the city’s website. The city and state will fund the path, but this university will manage it.

District 1 council member Jacob Hernandez was eager to explore how students, faculty and other community members in his district could benefit from the partnership’s planned initiatives.

“I’d love to hear about the programming being invested outside of the three programs that we’ve talking about today,” Hernandez said during the meeting. “Particularly to help assist with the transit for the students and faculty that live in the northern part of the city.”

Hartmann also celebrated the return of Trolley Trail Day — a partnership initiative that aims to unite and celebrate College Park around the Trolley Trail. The event was forced to shutter for several years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its revival in 2023 had more than 1,000 participants, Hartmann said.

District 3 council member Stuart Adams said he was excited to see the partnership’s focus on Trolley Trail, which is located in his district.

“It brings awareness to all the great things that are happening in College Park,” Adams said. “I look forward to seeing continued success there.”