The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing, “Disposal of Federal Real Property: Legislative Proposals,” on July 27. National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) Executive Director Maria Foscarinis testified about the importance of preserving the right of homeless service providers to obtain surplus property under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act in any proposal that would change the surplus federal property disposal process (see Memo, 5/20, 6/10).
The hearing focused on three legislative proposals intended to improve the federal property disposal process and to generate revenue: H.R. 665, the Excess Federal Building and Property Disposal Act of 2011; H.R. 1205, the Federal Real Property Disposal Enhancement Act of 2011; and H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act. The bills have been introduced by Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Jeff Denham (R-CA), respectively.
The provisions in Title V that make surplus federal property available for programs that address homelessness were acknowledged early on in the hearing. Committee Chair Darrell Issa said that no proposal could pass the Committee without either retaining or providing benefits equivalent to those afforded under Title V. All three Representatives said that they are open to suggestions on how to amend their legislation to better address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Ms. Foscarinis testified that NLCHP opposes H.R. 665 and H.R 1734 in their current forms because they would “threaten the existence of a longstanding and successful anti-homelessness program without providing any evidence of the cost savings their proponents use to justify the damage to Title V.” NLCHP does not oppose H.R. 1205 because it would only impact a small number of properties that would not be suitable for use by people experiencing homelessness.
Ms. Foscarinis also suggested a number of improvements to the Title V process including publicizing available properties online instead as well as in the Federal Register, and ensuring that properties can be used for all forms of permanent housing.
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said that it was important that Congress consider not only the impact that the proposals would have on cost savings, but also take into consideration the impact on people experiencing homelessness. Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked that a letter submitted by homeless advocates in support of Title V protections be inserted into the hearing record.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Budget Analysis Division Deputy Assistant Director Theresa Gullo testified about CBO’s recent finding that OMB’s surplus property proposal, billed as a cost-savings measure, would increase net direct spending by $60 million over the 2012–2021 period (see Memo, 7/15).
A copy of homeless advocates’ letter is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/Surplus_Property_Advocates_Letter_7-26-11.pdf
An archived webcast of the hearing and all witness testimony is available at http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1391%3A7-27-11-qdisposal-of-federal-real-property-legislative-proposalsq&catid=12&Itemid=1