Homelessness:

Action Needed to Make Federal Surplus Property Program More Effective

RCED-91-33: Published: Oct 9, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the availability of surplus federal property for use by the homeless under Title V of the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.

GAO found that: (1) between January and June 1990, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that 52 percent of 7,666 properties reviewed for potential use by the homeless were suitable; (2) although suitable, some listed properties were not available for nonfederal use; (3) the Department of Defense's (DOD) planned military base closures could increase the number of properties available to homeless assistance providers; (4) current procedures allowed homeless assistance providers to apply for suitable surplus property that was not yet available for such use; (5) the General Services Administration's (GSA) temporary regulation concerning excess and surplus property did not state when property would be made available to providers; (6) the lack of adequate program publicity made it difficult for homeless assistance providers to become aware of available federal properties; (7) since there was no comprehensive federal guidance on how to obtain federal properties, assistance providers could not go to one source to learn how the program worked; (8) the surplus property program limits some providers' ability to arrange financing to rehabilitate existing structures or build new structures, since the property must be leased; (9) such leases could expose the government to potential liabilities from litigation by persons harmed by property defects; and (10) local jurisdictions could seek compensation for costs associated with changing the property from federal use to a facility for the homeless.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Section 501 was amended through P.L. 101-645

    Matter: Congress should amend section 501 of title V of the McKinney Act to require that properties suitable for the homeless are not publicized until properties are actually available or declared surplus to the federal government

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Title V was amended through P.L. 101-645.

    Matter: Congress may wish to amend the title V to codify the court's requirement that landholding agencies hold property available until HHS has acted on assistance providers' applications.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Title V was amended through P.L. 101-645.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending title V to allow transferring ownership of some federal surplus properties to assistance providers for use as facilities for the homeless.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Joint issuance of permanent regulations by HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and GSA will give comprehensive guidance to title V programs and was finalized on May 24, 1991. Also, GSA observes a 30-day federal screening period for excess property.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should finalize and issue its regulation on excess real property to include title V requirements. This regulation should include a requirement that federal screening of excess property be completed in a reasonable period of time.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 101-645 amends title V of the McKinney Act to require HUD to publish quarterly lists in the Federal Register which distinguish property determined to be available for homeless purposes since issuance of the last list.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should ensure that excess and surplus property is publicized in the Federal Register after federal screening is completed, whether or not the property has been previously published in the Federal Register as suitable under- and unutilized property. This action will ensure a well publicized date for the beginning of the 30-day notification period.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The joint comprehensive title V program regulation by HHS, HUD, and GSA was finalized on May 24, 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development and the Administrator of General Services should finalize and issue their joint, comprehensive title V program regulation. This will provide the necessary guidance to applicants for federal property.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The joint comprehensive title V program regulation by HHS, HUD, and GSA was finalized on May 24, 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development and the Administrator of General Services should finalize and issue their joint, comprehensive title V program regulation. This will provide the necessary guidance to applicants for federal property.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The joint comprehensive title V program regulation by HHS, HUD, and GSA was finalized on May 24, 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development and the Administrator of General Services should finalize and issue their joint, comprehensive title V program regulation. This will provide the necessary guidance to applicants for federal property.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurs with the recommendation with the exception of requiring the agency to repair all hazardous conditions before allowing the public to enter. DOD does not plan to address the provision that would require DOD to assume responsibility for correction of conditions prior to occupancy.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should review and amend as necessary the leasing or permitting instruments for properties to be leased for the homeless under Title V of the McKinney Act to require that the lessee hold the federal government harmless for any injury that occurs on the property, inspect the premises, and repair all hazardous conditions before allowing the public to enter. In addition, for property other than base closure property, the lease should state that the federal government assumes no service charges or fees that may be requested for the homeless facility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 1997, HHS revised its lease for properties to be leased under Title V of the McKinney Act. The revised lease includes language that holds the federal government harmless for any injury that occurs on the property and requires that the lessee inspect the premises and repair all hazardous conditions before allowing the public to enter. In addition, the lease states that, for properties other than base closure property, the federal government assumes no service charges or fees that may be requested for the homeless facility.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should review and amend as necessary the leasing or permitting instruments for properties to be leased for the homeless under Title V of the McKinney Act to require that the lessee hold the federal government harmless for any injury that occurs on the property, inspect the premises, and repair all hazardous conditions before allowing the public to enter. In addition, for property other than base closure property, the lease should state that the federal government assumes no service charges or fees that may be requested for the homeless facility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On April 18, 1991, GSA issued GSA Bulletin FPMR H-61, which addresses leases and permits concerning federal real property to be used by homeless assistance providers under the McKinney Act, as amended. The bulletin addresses clauses concerning liability for personal injury and other losses, and liability for assessed costs. This bulletin is still in effect. About 3 years ago, GSA produced draft provisions, and circulated them to the other agencies, and had intended to include them in new regulations. However, the other agencies have not taken action on the provisions. GSA has no authority over these agencies and does not believe that this recommendation will ever be fully implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should review and amend as necessary the leasing or permitting instruments for properties to be leased for the homeless under Title V of the McKinney Act to require that the lessee hold the federal government harmless for any injury that occurs on the property, inspect the premises, and repair all hazardous conditions before allowing the public to enter. In addition, for property other than base closure property, the lease should state that the federal government assumes no service charges or fees that may be requested for the homeless facility.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurs. This language is already in the standard DOD lease.

    Recommendation: In addition to lease amendments, the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should obtain evidence of current insurance coverage by the lessee.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS concurs; however, lessees must submit proof of current insurance coverage as part of the annual utilization reports which are required to be submitted by all lessees.

    Recommendation: In addition to lease amendments, the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should obtain evidence of current insurance coverage by the lessee.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 1991, GSA published a Federal Property Management Regulation Bulletin prescribing appropriate lease/permit clauses as recommended by GAO. In this bulletin, GSA recommended that the heads of federal landholding agencies require lessees to periodically provide evidence to the lessor that all required insurance remains in effect. A GSA official stated that they do not, however, plan to obtain evidence of current insurance coverage by the lessee.

    Recommendation: In addition to lease amendments, the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Defense and the Administrator of General Services should obtain evidence of current insurance coverage by the lessee.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 1991, GSA published a Federal Property Management Regulation Bulletin to heads of federal agencies that they should review their leases or permits should any Title V surplus property under their jurisdiction be applied for.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services, as federal property manager, should inform the heads of other landholding agencies about the need to review their leases or permits should any Title V property under their jurisdiction be applied for.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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