Using Vacant Federal Property for the Homeless

House Hearing Examines
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

Maria FoscarinisOn June 16, 2015, Maria Foscarinis of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty testified on Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 during a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The hearing titled, “Saving Taxpayer Dollars in Federal Real Estate: Reducing the Federal Government’s Space Footprint,” examined ways of reforming how the federal government disposes of its surplus real property.

When the federal government no longer has use for a property, the property is usually declared to be surplus. Under Title V, homeless service providers have a right of first refusal to acquire surplus property at no cost before the property can be offered to state or local governments or be sold to generate revenue for the federal government.

In her testimony, Ms. Foscarinis stated:

“The McKinney-Vento Act was intended to expand and coordinate federal resources and programs to address the ‘critically urgent needs’ of homeless Americans. The Title V surplus federal property program is central to this overarching mission. Title V is a proven vehicle for assisting America’s homeless with no cost to taxpayers. Going forward, we are committed to pursuing all available avenues to ensure that federal agencies do not continue to hoard surplus property that could be put to better use to improve the lives of homeless individuals and families. Congress should ensure that surplus properties are put to better, more productive use while reducing costs to taxpayers.”

Ms. Foscarinis offered several policy recommendations for improving Title V, including:

  • Require federal agencies to make property that is vacant or unused for one year available for uses for homeless services.
  • Streamline the Title V application process to ensure it is fair and efficient for homeless assistance providers.
  • Transfer the Department of Health and Human Services’ responsibility of reviewing and approving Title V applications to HUD in order to reduce bureaucratic redundancy.

Click here for the webcast.

Click here to view Ms. Foscarinis’ written testimony.