With its picturesque island beaches, festive and colorful luaus, and a summery climate year round, many view Hawaii as the ultimate tropical paradise. “There is no question that Hawaii is a beautiful place,” said Jim Secreto, M.P.P. ’11. “But the experience that tourists have while visiting Hawaii masks the very real, day-to-day struggles of the people that live there.”

Secreto explored issues of affordable housing and transit-oriented development for the city of Honolulu this past summer as an Ash Center Summer Fellow in Innovation. His work with a team of dedicated staff resulted in the city securing a $2.3 million joint grant from the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development to further improve transit-oriented development in the region.

“This is wonderful news for our community, and it reflects the hard work and cooperation of many people,” said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle in a recent press release. “We are committed to making sure rail transit and transit-oriented development projects are done right, and this grant will be a big help.”

Honolulu has recently broken ground on a high-capacity rail corridor transit project to be completed in 2019 which would build 20 miles of rail lines connecting the western side of the island to the city center. By 2030, the majority of Honolulu’s jobs and population are expected to be along this corridor. With the rail project under way, the city of Honolulu has taken this timely opportunity to evaluate ways to make the city more livable for its residents. As part of this effort, Secreto and his colleagues’ winning grant application requests funding to improve Honolulu’s economic competitiveness by increasing opportunities for affordable housing and public transport.

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