On June 9, Maria Foscarinis, the Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), testified about proposals that may limit homeless service providers’ access to surplus federal properties. The testimony was presented at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security entitled “Federal Asset Management: Eliminating Waste by Disposing of Unneeded Federal Real Property.”
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) both released proposals that may limit the ability of states, units of local government, and nonprofit organizations to access surplus federal property for the benefit of persons experiencing homelessness.
Under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act, these entities are given the first opportunity to acquire surplus federal property as it becomes available. According to Ms. Forscarinis, each year 2.4 million people benefit from housing or services at properties acquired through Title V.
Discussed at the hearing was how the government could address the federal budget deficit by increasing federal revenue from the sale of unused federal properties. While Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) claimed Title V has prevented the sale of properties by slowing down the disposition process, Ms. Foscarinis said that the vast majority of delays occur after the Title V process has ended.
The law requires federal agencies to provide HUD with a list of unused properties on a quarterly basis. If HUD determines that the properties may be of use to homeless service providers, providers have the first chance to apply for the properties for 60 days. If no applications are received during this period, the federal government may proceed in the sale or disposal of the properties.
Ms. Foscarinis made clear that NLCHP is willing to work with Subcommittee Chair Thomas Carper (D-DE), Ranking Member Scott Brown (R-MA), and other Subcommittee members to improve and streamline the Title V process. Ms. Foscarinis suggested one possible reform would be the better targeting of properties that could be used by homeless service providers, in order to expedite the sale of other properties.
Ms. Foscarinis also addressed the cost-savings focus of the hearing in her testimony. She said that “ending homelessness is not only the right thing to do, it is the fiscally responsible thing to do,” given the high cost of homelessness to society.
In a second panel, James Sullivan, Director of the Office of Asset Enterprise Management at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that that the VA had recently approved 34 "Building Utilization Review and Repurposing" projects. These 34 projects will provide "an estimated 1,700 units of housing for homeless veterans and 900 units of housing for senior and non-senior independent living and assisted living."
On June 8, NLCHP held a congressional briefing “A Human Rights Perspective on Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Among other issues, advocates at the briefing discussed the importance of vacant property as a way to increase housing and shelter options for persons experiencing homelessness.
Witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing is available at: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_id=07db5a00-cf1f-43b0-a112-d478aa4ab9d3
The VA’s press release is available at: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2113"Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness" is available at: http://www.epaperflip.com/aglaia/viewer.aspx?docid=1dc1e97f82884912a8932a3502c37c02