05/02/2022 | by

Nareit appointed Gladys Marrone as executive director of its Hawaii office in February 2020, launching a new era for Nareit to be involved in Hawaii on the local level.

As executive director of Nareit Hawaii, Marrone has represented REITs locally, coordinated outreach to investors and the investment community in Hawaii, helped implement the Nareit Hawaii Community Giving Initiative, and worked with government agencies and community and charitable organizations to address social issues.

As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month kicks off this week, REIT.com sat down with Marrone to discuss Nareit Hawaii’s achievements over the past two years.

What milestones has Nareit Hawaii reached since it was first launched?

When I accepted the responsibility to serve as executive director of Nareit Hawaii, I did so on the promise that this new organization would be able to make a positive impact on the lives of families, especially families needing support, and give them a renewed hope for the future. The opportunity for Nareit Hawaii to support affordable housing initiatives, as well as vitally important charitable programs that help families to flourish and communities to thrive, was a priority for me, both personally and in fulfilling my role. Since then, Nareit Hawaii, with the strong backing of the Nareit Foundation, the financial support of REITs in Hawaii, and Nareit directly has more than come through for families and communities in Hawaii.

Since 2018, the Nareit Foundation has contributed $1.4 million in grants to nonprofit affordable housing programs, and in the last two years since I came on board Nareit Hawaii has funded almost $400,000 to charitable organizations for other community needs. The affordable housing grants have made a tremendous impact on the numerous families’ quality of life, helping to put many in new homes, renovating dilapidated structures, and giving hope to groups ranging from the homeless to multi-generational families under one roof to retired military veterans on fixed incomes.

Hawaii Literacy
Nareit Hawaii with Hawaii Literacy

Our other charitable donations have supported programs that help lift up families with their daily needs, including such basics as providing nourishing food daily to children, encouraging parents and children to improve their literacy skills, providing masks early in the pandemic to trade union members, and expanding COVID vaccination outreach among Filipinos and Pacific Islanders statewide. I’m proud of all that Nareit Hawaii has accomplished in such a short time and look forward to all the good work that we can continue to do for families and communities throughout Hawaii.

Why is it important for real estate finance professionals in Hawaii to be a part of the Nareit community there?

I think there has been a general misunderstanding about how important REITs are to reinforcing Hawaii’s economic foundation and providing the kind of financial resources needed for strong, dependable and responsible growth. A focus of Nareit Hawaii is to increase public awareness about the benefits that REITs deliver for Hawaii’s economy and communities. Nareit Hawaii also helps clarify for policymakers, business leaders, and opinion influencers the complex tax structure that REITs are required to follow by federal and state law.

Having real estate finance professionals be affiliated with or supportive of Nareit Hawaii gives them a stronger voice on issues and the future direction of Hawaii’s real estate industry.

What has Nareit Hawaii done to advance affordable housing in the short- and long-term?

The Nareit Hawaii Community Giving Initiative, established by the Nareit Foundation and supported with donations from REITs in Hawaii, has been incredibly effective at supporting families needing housing assistance. Two examples of grants we provided show how much of an impact the foundation’s support can be for families.

Pu‘uhonua O Wai‘anae
Pu‘uhonua O Wai‘anae is a nonprofit group that is building a village for homeless residents on Oahu.

The first example involves Pu‘uhonua O Wai‘anae, a nonprofit group that is striving to build from scratch a village to house 250 homeless residents who have been living in tents and under tarps for years along the beach on the far western end of Oahu. The group was having trouble getting financial support to make their village a reality.

But, when the Nareit Foundation stepped forward with the first of two $150,000 grants, that validated the group’s efforts and led to other Hawaii entities providing financial and in-kind support. As James Pakele, president of Pu‘uhonua O Wai‘anae, told us: “The Nareit Foundation was our first major donor. They believed in us and gave others confidence to donate.”

Molokai Baptist Church
Molokai Baptist Church has been helping residents make needed repairs to their homes.

The second example involves Molokai Baptist Church and their fundraising efforts to provide painfully needed renovations to homes for three economically challenged families in one of Hawaii’s poorest communities.

The Nareit Foundation provided a $75,000 grant for the church’s Aloha in Action program to purchase housing materials to: replace a badly leaking roof for a disabled mother with three children; install a bathroom and septic system for use by a mother, two children, and a grandchild in a home that had no bathroom; and build a small two-bedroom home for a young couple to own and start a family.

The Foundation’s grant had a profound impact in allowing the repairs to be made much sooner than expected. As Pastor Randy Manley told us: “Without Nareit’s support, it would have taken us many months and possibly years to raise all of the funds necessary to help these families with their housing needs.”

What is the top takeaway you’d like Nareit members to know about Nareit Hawaii and its work?

The support of REITs has enabled the Nareit Foundation and Nareit Hawaii to make impactful, life-changing differences that are strengthening parents, kids, and communities throughout the Hawaiian Islands. We are committed to doing more to help those in need and keep this positive momentum going in the coming years.

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