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August 2012 | Volume 1, Issue 4  

 IN THIS ISSUE:

 Dedicated Paths and Lanes: Their Influence on Bike Commuting
 Grantee Spotlight: Honolulu’s Transit-Oriented Housing Strategy
 Study Confirms Energy Savings in Multifamily Building Retrofits
 Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Development in Arlington, Virginia


 

Grantee Spotlight: Honolulu’s Transit-Oriented Housing Strategy

The proposed location for the Kapalama station along the Kapalama canal in Honolulu’s Kalihi community is currently sparsely lined with warehouses.
The proposed location for the Kapalama station along the Kapalama canal in Honolulu’s Kalihi community is currently sparsely lined with warehouses. Image courtesy of William Chang.
Hawaii’s eight main islands lie at the southern end of a nearly 1,500-mile tropical island chain. With their dramatic landscape of beaches, rain forests, and volcanoes, the Hawaiian Islands appeal to tourists and residents alike. Honolulu County occupies 601 square miles along the southeastern shore of Oahu and with 953,207 residents, or 70% of the state’s total population, it is the most densely populated part of Hawai’i. The tourism industry accounts for more than 17.4 percent of total employment; in 2011, visitors poured more than $12.5 billion into the state's economy. In part because of its desirability as a tourist destination — coupled with its popularity as a second-home market — Honolulu also has the third-highest cost of living of all U.S. cities. "There's a huge disparity between the cost of buying a house and people's wages," says Terrance Ware, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Administrator for the City and County of Honolulu. Ware says that the availability of affordable housing is shrinking because the age of the city's housing stock — much of it built between 1965 and 1975 — drives landlords to convert units to condominiums to avoid rising maintenance costs. Most of the affordable, recently built single-family homes are situated on the west side of town, whereas most jobs are located to the east in Waikiki. A single overburdened highway connects the two areas; this year, Honolulu had the highest traffic congestion in the United States. To help address these challenges, the City and County of Honolulu secured a $2,383,424 Community Challenge Planning Grant in October 2010. Working with a consortium of for-profit and nonprofit developers, community organizations, and public agencies, the city and county of Honolulu will use the grant to develop a transit-oriented housing strategy focused on increasing the number of new and renovated affordable housing units and boosting investment around Honolulu's future rail line.

A Partnership Approach: “TOD Collaborative”

In spring 2011, Honolulu hired a consultant to analyze the existing housing stock. The firm is collecting data on the location of housing, its cost and quality, and the rate of conversion from rental to for-sale units. This information will be gathered into a database that will help the city and its partners better understand the market context where their plan must fit. Honolulu also commissioned a study of the capacity of existing community organizations to assist with TOD implementation. The study recommended that Honolulu implement a TOD development best practice, known as a “TOD collaborative,” that has been successfully deployed in other cities, including Denver and San Francisco. This development model brings together community and government stakeholders to build the financial and political capacity necessary for implementing TOD projects. The report also identified existing organizations that might make up a Honolulu TOD collaborative, as well as potential funding sources. Because the community lacks experience with TOD planning and implementation, the report also recommended that the city plan a series of workshops and seminars to educate community organizations and public agencies about specific TOD proposals.

Moving Forward with TOD Site Prioritization

An artist’s rendering of how the community envisions the Kapalama station’s transit-oriented development would look, featuring a pedestrian path and residential development where a warehouse currently is located.
An artist’s rendering of how the community envisions the Kapalama station’s transit-oriented development would look, featuring a pedestrian path and residential development where a warehouse currently is located. Image courtesy of William Chang.
To move the transit-oriented housing strategy forward, Honolulu formed a task force composed of nonprofit and for-profit developers, public agencies, and Kamehameha Schools (one of the island's largest landowners). The task force will meet six times between April and July 2012 to prioritize TOD sites and assess policy tools designed to spur development. Of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project's 21 proposed stations (the first of which is scheduled to open in 2015), the task force selected 3 stations where the surrounding areas provide the most promise for affordable housing development.

The task force is considering several strategies to focus development around transit stations and encourage investment in existing rental properties, such as creating a land-acquisition fund and a tax-abatement program. The task force is also looking at ways to give developers more design flexibility, such as investing in parks (to lessen open-space requirements for new projects) and easing regulations on parking requirements, given that the developments will be near transit. At the final meetings in June and July 2012, the task force will propose policy and program changes and make recommendations for the use of HUD funding. Honolulu will use the HUD grant to leverage funds from other sources, including the Hawai’i Housing Alliance, Kamehameha Schools, and the city's Affordable Housing Fund and Clean Water and Natural Lands program. "The idea was to take a look at best practices and think of how we could invest the majority of the [HUD] money as a catalyst," says Ware. "I think where we're going with this is to take one particular station neighborhood and use it as a Petri dish to ask what kinds of policies — additive or reductive — would act as a catalyst for housing? What type of investment would actually lead to affordable housing?"


 

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