The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act, on October 13.
Homeless service providers have the first right of refusal for surplus federal properties under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (see Memo, 7/29). H.R. 1734 as introduced would create a panel to make decisions about the disposal of surplus federal properties in a manner similar to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. In a letter submitted when H.R. 1734 was introduced, advocates expressed concern that access to these properties by homeless service providers would be weakened under the bill because there is no requirement that homeless service providers be represented on the panel. Advocates also expressed concern that the bill contains timelines “too short for homeless service providers to identify appropriate properties.”
At the markup, Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA), who is the author of H.R. 1734, offered an amendment in a nature of a substitute that, among other provisions, would no longer subject the disposal or realignment of civilian property to Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act.
Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) said in his opening statement that he was concerned that the amendment in a nature of a substitute, which made substantive changes from H.R. 1734 as introduced, was only made available to Committee members one day prior to the markup.
“The bill would eliminate the preference that homeless shelter providers have to acquire excess federal property. So I’m wondering what the message is here…. Homeless people: no more shelters for you. Marie Antoinette would have loved this bill. Let them eat cake,” said Mr. Rahall.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) offered an amendment to strike the provisions of the Denham amendment that would waive Title V rights. However, Ms. Norton’s amendment failed by a vote of 21 to 27. Mr. Denham’s amendment was approved by a voice vote and the underlying bill, H.R. 1734 as amended, was approved by a vote of 30 to 22.
During the markup Ms. Norton and Mr. Denham agreed to work together to craft language that would address the needs of people experiencing homelessness. It is expected that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which also has jurisdiction over H.R. 1734, will consider the measure at a later date.
An archived webcast of the markup and other materials are available at http://transportation.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=1089