Military Base Realignments and Closures:

Process for Reusing Property for Homeless Assistance Needs Improvements

GAO-15-274: Published: Mar 16, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2015.

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What GAO Found

A variety of homeless assistance was provided as a result of the 2005 round of base realignments and closures (BRAC), but the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) do not require homeless assistance conveyance data to be tracked. Of the 125 large and small bases closed with surplus property, local redevelopment authorities (LRA) at 39 bases agreed to provide homeless assistance to 75 providers. If implemented, these agreements would provide nearly 50 parcels of property and over $29 million in total assistance. As of October 2014, GAO found that 27 of the 75 providers with agreements had received their property or monetary conveyances. However, DOD and HUD do not require tracking of the status of the homeless assistance conveyances. In contrast, the program administrator of the Title V homeless assistance program, which oversees conveyances for non-BRAC properties, developed policies to perform oversight in part because the government retains an interest in Title V properties. Without tracking the status of the conveyances, neither DOD nor HUD know the extent to which properties are actually being conveyed; the extent to which the providers are using the properties for their intended use; the extent to which LRAs are making sufficient efforts to find a replacement provider in the event of a provider dropping out; and ultimately the effectiveness of the homeless assistance program.

BRAC surplus property benefited homeless assistance efforts, but limited information and dedicated HUD resources contributed to challenges in the timeliness and feasibility of assistance provided. Homeless assistance providers GAO interviewed said that, among other things, the BRAC homeless assistance program provided the overall benefit of a no-cost property conveyance or financial assistance to support local homeless assistance efforts. However, LRAs and providers GAO interviewed also stated that they did not have sufficient and clear information from DOD and HUD regarding four steps of the homeless assistance process: (1) what information LRAs should give providers during property tours and workshops, (2) what information to include in providers' notices of interest about properties, (3) what information to include in developing legally binding agreements for conveying assistance, and (4) what alternatives are available to on-base property conveyances. For example, during required property tours and workshops, LRAs were unaware of what information to give and gave providers limited property condition information, which led to some providers withdrawing after they identified the cost of needed repairs. Without detailed information on these four steps, LRAs and providers may not have the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions. LRA officials also stated that they appreciated advice from HUD staff on the BRAC process. However, GAO found that HUD did not have enough resources dedicated to meet the 60-day review deadline in the BRAC statue for reviewing LRA redevelopment plans. According to HUD, two staff were assigned to review the plans, taking an average of 151 days longer than allowed to approve redevelopment plans with homeless assistance. However, HUD has not developed options to address reviewing the surge of plans in any future BRAC rounds. Without a means to ensure that needed staff resources are dedicated to HUD's review process, it will be difficult for HUD to provide reasonable assurance that the delays experienced during the BRAC 2005 round will not be repeated.

Why GAO Did This Study

The 2005 BRAC round resulted in 125 closed bases with over 73,000 acres of surplus property available. The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act, as amended, requires DOD and HUD to assist communities in determining the best reuse of land and facilities, balancing needs of the local economy with those of homeless individuals and families.

GAO was mandated to review the extent to which DOD and HUD implemented the homeless assistance provisions while disposing of BRAC surplus property. This report addresses (1) the assistance provided as a result of BRAC 2005 and the extent to which DOD and HUD track its implementation and (2) any benefits and challenges encountered as DOD, HUD, and LRAs addressed homeless assistance provisions. GAO reviewed homeless assistance plans; interviewed DOD and HUD officials; and interviewed LRAs and homeless assistance providers from a nongeneralizable sample of 23 closed bases, selected based on size, geography, and types of assistance provided.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD and HUD track conveyance status and provide clear information on four steps of the homeless assistance process. HUD generally concurred, and DOD either partially concurred or did not concur with these recommendations, stating its existing guidance is sufficient. GAO believes these recommendations are still valid as discussed in the report. GAO also recommends that HUD address staff resources during a BRAC round, and HUD generally concurred.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to require that conveyance statuses be tracked, which could include requiring DOD to track and share disposal actions with HUD and requiring HUD to track the status following disposal. In an April 2017 follow up, DOD stated that it plans to address our recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. DOD added that it will work closely with the military Departments and HUD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To help determine the effectiveness of BRAC homeless assistance conveyances, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to require that conveyance statuses be tracked. These regulatory updates could include requiring DOD to track and share disposal actions with HUD and requiring HUD to track the status following disposal, such as type of assistance received by providers and potential withdrawals by providers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to require that conveyance statuses be tracked, which could include requiring DOD to track and share disposal actions with HUD and requiring HUD to track the status following disposal. HUD stated that it is willing to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to track the conveyances of property for homeless assistance, but noted that it will require DOD agreement to do so because the regulations are joint. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To help determine the effectiveness of BRAC homeless assistance conveyances, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to require that conveyance statuses be tracked. These regulatory updates could include requiring DOD to track and share disposal actions with HUD and requiring HUD to track the status following disposal, such as type of assistance received by providers and potential withdrawals by providers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include specific guidance that clearly identifies the information that should be provided to homeless assistance providers during tours of on-base property, such as the condition of the property. DOD stated that while it already provides generic information about the property, the LRAs and interested homeless assistance providers can undertake facility assessments following the tours. However, DOD did not provide additional detail or explanation about how it would provide information about the condition of the property or access to it. In an April 2017 follow up, DOD stated that it plans to address our recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. DOD added that it will work closely with the military Departments and HUD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include specific guidance that clearly identifies the information that should be provided to homeless assistance providers during tours of on-base property, such as the condition of the property.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include specific guidance that clearly identifies the information that should be provided to homeless assistance providers during tours of on-base property, such as the condition of the property. HUD stated that it will update its BRAC guidebook, website, and presentations to provide clarifying information for homeless assistance providers regarding what information should be included during tours of on-base property. HUD also noted in its response that this will require DOD and military department agreement to implement and that the provision of information about the condition of on-base property and access to that property is under the purview of the military department. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include specific guidance that clearly identifies the information that should be provided to homeless assistance providers during tours of on-base property, such as the condition of the property.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD did not concur with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include information for homeless assistance providers to use in preparing their notices of interest. In its response, DOD stated that the existing regulatory guidance is adequate for providers' expressions of interest, given that these expressions evolve as the redevelopment planning effort proceeds and they learn more about the property. In an April 2017 follow up, DOD stated that it plans to address our recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. DOD added that it will work closely with the military Departments and HUD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include information for homeless assistance providers to use for preparing their notices of interest.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include information for homeless assistance providers to use in preparing their notices of interest. HUD stated that it will update its BRAC guidebook, website, and presentations to provide clarifying information for homeless assistance providers to use in preparing their notices of interest. HUD also stated that it considered the current regulations and BRAC guidebook sufficient to inform providers as long as LRAs did not place additional requirements, which may create an undue burden for providers. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include information for homeless assistance providers to use for preparing their notices of interest.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include guidance for legally binding agreements and clarification on the implications of unsigned agreements. DOD did not commit to taking any actions to provide this information and instead noted that any action should ensure that a legally binding agreement does not bind DOD to disposal actions it is unable to carry out. Nothing in the recommendation requires DOD to sign an agreement it cannot carry out. DOD further noted that the purpose of the legally binding agreement is to provide remedies and recourse for the LRA and provider in carrying out an accommodation following property disposal. In an April 2017 follow up, DOD stated that it plans to address our recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. DOD added that it will work closely with the military Departments and HUD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include guidance for legally binding agreements and clarification on the implications of unsigned agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include guidance for legally binding agreements and clarification on the implications of unsigned agreements. HUD stated that it will update its BRAC guidebook, website, and presentations to provide clarifying information for homeless assistance providers to use in preparing legally binding agreements and on the implications of unsigned agreements. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include guidance for legally binding agreements and clarification on the implications of unsigned agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD did not concur with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include specific information on legal alternatives to providing on-base property, including acceptable alternative options such as financial assistance or off-base property in lieu of on-base property, information about rules of sale for on-base property conveyed to homeless assistance providers, and under what circumstances it is permissible to sell property for affordable housing alongside the no-cost homeless assistance conveyance. In its response, DOD stated that providers may only be considered through specific expressions of interest in surplus BRAC property, and these suggested alternatives may only be considered within the context of what is legally permissible given the specific circumstances at each installation. Further, DOD noted in its response that HUD may provide examples of alternatives to on-base property that have been approved to date as part of a local accommodation to offer examples for LRAs and providers. In an April 2017 follow up, DOD stated that it plans to address our recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. DOD added that it will work closely with the military Departments and HUD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include specific information on legal alternatives to providing on-base property, including acceptable alternative options such as financial assistance or off-base property in lieu of on-base property, information about rules of sale for on-base property conveyed to homeless assistance providers, and under what circumstances it is permissible to sell property for affordable housing alongside the no-cost homeless assistance conveyance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations, establish information-sharing mechanisms, or develop templates to include specific information on legal alternatives to providing on-base property, including acceptable alternative options such as financial assistance or off-base property in lieu of on-base property, information about rules of sale for on-base property conveyed to homeless assistance providers, and under what circumstances it is permissible to sell property for affordable housing alongside the no-cost homeless assistance conveyance. HUD stated that it will update its BRAC guidebook, website, and presentations to clarify that the use of off-base property and financial assistance are acceptable alternate means of homeless assistance accommodation in base redevelopment plans and to include examples of alternatives to on-base property that have been approved to date. HUD also stated that this will require DOD and military department agreement to implement. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To assist homeless assistance providers and LRAs in completing the steps of the BRAC homeless assistance process within required time frames, to provide additional information to reduce unfulfilled expectations about the decisions made in executing the homeless assistance agreements, and to promote a greater dissemination of this information, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Defense, for each of the following four elements, should update the BRAC homeless assistance regulations; establish information-sharing mechanisms, such as a website or informational pamphlets; or develop templates to include specific information on legal alternatives to providing on-base property, including acceptable alternative options such as financial assistance or off-base property in lieu of on-base property, information about rules of sale for on-base property conveyed to homeless assistance providers, and under what circumstances it is permissible to sell property for affordable housing alongside the no-cost homeless assistance conveyance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: HUD generally concurred with the recommendation to develop options to address the use of staff resources dedicated to the reviews of bases during a BRAC round, such as assigning temporary headquarters staff or utilizing current field HUD staff. HUD stated that it temporarily assigned headquarters staff and utilized field office staff during the 2005 round of BRAC. HUD also stated that, in the event of another BRAC round the size of 2005, it would encourage Congress to allocate funding for appropriate temporary staff resources to assist the department in meeting important timelines. In a March 2017 follow up, HUD stated it will address GAO recommendations regarding the BRAC homeless assistance process when Congress provides BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD added it would be premature to make any changes to current implementing policies or regulations which could be impacted by new BRAC authorizing legislation. HUD stated it will work closely with the military departments and DOD staff in the process of revising the implementing regulation.

    Recommendation: To help improve the timeliness of the HUD review process, the Secretary of Housing Urban Development should develop options to address the use of staff resources dedicated to the reviews of bases during a BRAC round, such as assigning temporary headquarters staff or utilizing current field HUD staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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