Transit-oriented development assistance will help Honolulu, HI make more housing more affordable

When the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced last week that Honolulu, HI would be among nine cities to receive new technical assistance for transit-oriented development, Honolulu Planning Director George Atta knew exactly how the assistance could help the city.

“We are hoping that transit oriented development will help us with our severe affordable housing problem,” Atta said.

The technical assistance is part of a project from FTA in partnership with Smart Growth America designed to help communities address equity concerns—such as increasing access to jobs and providing affordable housing choices—through transit-oriented development, or “TOD”. The Honolulu Department of Planning and Mr. Atta, who is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, will be part of the team to receive this assistance. Honolulu applied for the assistance to help with development around the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, which will eventually stretch 21 miles along the southeast coast of Oahu and contain 21 elevated stations.

“We are focusing on these TOD areas as catalysts for our major policy goals,” Atta explained. One of those goals is addressing the growing problem of affordable housing in the city. According to the Hawaii Housing Alliance, Honolulu loses more affordable units than it creates each year due to condo conversions and expiring deed restrictions. TOD can help with this problem, Mr. Atta explained, by incentivizing the construction of new homes at a variety of price points in high-demand areas. It’s a strategy that will also give more people the opportunity to live and work near public transit, and thus lower their routine transportation costs.

Smart Growth America and the technical assistance team will work with the City of Honolulu to identify policies and strategies that will support affordability goals in neighborhoods that are likely to experience increasing demand as transit comes online. Strategies that Honolulu is already considering include reducing parking requirements in station areas and creating incentives for existing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their properties. We look forward to working with the City on even more in the coming year.

Eight other cities will use this technical assistance on projects ranging from development along a new bus rapid transit line to the renovation of a historic rail depot. Learn more about all the selected projects >>

Local Leaders Council Technical assistance