National Park Service:

Employee Housing Issues

T-RCED-98-35: Published: Oct 29, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 1997.

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GAO discussed its past work on National Park Service (NPS) employee housing issues.

GAO noted that: (1) NPS has not clearly justified the need for all of its employee housing units; (2) the agency requires parks to perform needs assessments to justify its housing; (3) however, these assessments may not be in-depth, objective, nor performed consistently from park to park; (4) in response to the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996, the agency is beginning to assess the need for its housing units; however, this process is not scheduled to be completed until 2002--9 years after GAO recommended such assessments; (5) NPS has not been able to provide detailed support for its backlog for repairing and replacing its housing inventory; (6) in 1993, GAO reported that the agency estimated its housing backlog at $546 million; however, NPS could not support this figure; (7) today, the agency estimates its housing backlog to be about $300 million; however, NPS acknowledges that this figure is not based on a detailed assessment of its housing repair and maintenance needs but rather a gross estimate based on the total number of houses whose conditions have been rated less than good; (8) individual park managers have broad discretion in implementing park housing policy, resulting in inconsistencies in how the program is managed across the agency and raising questions about whether housing decisions are being made in the best interest of the agency; (9) other federal land management agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) do not provide the same level of housing to their employees; (10) because its mission emphasizes providing more in-park visitor services than the other agencies, NPS believes that it needs to provide a larger number of its employees with in-park housing; (11) for example, in 1994 GAO reported that NPS had one unit for every 5 employees, while the Forest Service had one unit for every 11 employees and the BLM had one unit for every 58 employees; (12) when compared with the other agencies, the NPS mix of housing units has relatively more houses, multiplex units, and apartments and relatively fewer dormitories and cabins, and because of this, the NPS housing inventory is more costly to maintain.

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