Congressman Jeff Denham wants to sell 770,000 empty federally-owned buildings that taxpayers are spending $1.7 billion yearly to maintain.
And after spending for years cobbling together a bill that would make that happen, the Turlock Republican is hopeful that Congress will send the measure to President Obama in the coming months.
“Agencies often don’t even know what they have,” Denham told Manteca Rotarians gathered Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
Denham added that there is very little communication between agencies leading some to build new offices when there is adequate space available for them nearby in a complex operated by another federal agency.
Denham’s bill is similar to one that has passed the Senate. It would create a seven-member commission and gives them six years to review federal holdings. They would recommend buildings that could be sold plus ways various federal agencies could consolidate their holdings. That report would go to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That agency would then advise Congress on which properties to sell.
The Government Accountability Office has issued a report that noted the federal government has way too much property and often leases space when it would be far cheaper to own space or use existing facilities.
Denham’s latest bill has provisions that address an issue that killed a previous effort in 2013. Federal law requires non-profits and other agencies such as state governments be given first crack at surplus property before it is sold. The Congressional Research Service has indicated that adds years to any effort to try and sell a building.
In Denham’s current bill, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would decide what properties would be suitable for non-profits and other levels of government for such uses as housing the homeless. After that is done, only those buildings would be made available.
Denham’s latest bill enjoys support of key Democrats who have indicated it lines up with an objective of President Obama to reduce federal holdings.
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