Ernie Martin’s 2017 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

“We know what works, we just need to scale up.” What I took away from my attendance of the 2017 Fall Urban Land Institute (ULI) Conference can be summed up with this statement, made by a panelist during the October 24th workshop entitled A Serious Conversation about Homelessness.

As an elected official, I am responsible for developing and enacting policy legislation. The ULI Fall Meeting provided a diversity of information that was relevant to many issues facing the City and County of Honolulu such as homelessness, affordable housing and transportation. To me, these issues are interrelated. Addressing one without considering the others is a mistake, the problems and solutions are connected. We have limited public resources in Honolulu but there are “investment” opportunities that were detailed in the ULI Fall Meeting whereupon our resources could be redirected to “scale up” on the aforementioned challenges.

Like Los Angeles and many comparable jurisdictions represented at the conference, Honolulu faces an enormous challenge in meeting the demands of affordable housing. Nowhere in America is the gap between what people earn and what it costs to own or rent a home so wide. Honolulu is short 20,000 units for those earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income. Our problem is further magnified by an ever increasing homeless population that is the largest, per capita, in the nation.

The ULI conference offered important insights and information that could lead to legislation as we continue to work through the construction for our $8 billion dollar rail project. If planned right, and with the appropriate level of political will, Honolulu is in a position to dramatically alter its landscape to address our affordable housing shortage and homelessness crisis.

For example, a number of panelists spoke on the necessity for converting existing parking facilities to account for the rapid growth and popularity of ride sharing and the imminent arrival of self-driving cars. These innovations are decreasing the demand for vehicle ownership and correspondingly, personal parking spaces. This will also have an impact on the design for future transit stations which could release land dedicated for parking to accommodate greater residential uses.

Unfortunately, because of my late registration, I was unable to participate in any of the mobile tours which I always find helpful in contemplating future legislation. But as an annual attendee of many legislative conferences, the ULI Fall Meeting, in my opinion, offered the most practical and relevant information, especially with respect to strategies in addressing affordable housing and homelessness. This was my first opportunity to attend the ULI Fall Meeting after seven years in office but it will not be my last. Mahalo for an informative and insightful convention.

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