National Park Service:

Concerns About the Implementation of Its Employee Housing Policy

T-RCED-99-119: Published: Mar 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1999.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the National Park Service's employee housing program, focusing on: (1) what the Park Service's efforts to implement the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996--one purpose of which was to move the agency to eliminate unnecessary government housing and rely more on the private sector to supply housing for employees; and (2) what impact the action is likely to have.

GAO noted that: (1) the Park Service carried out both actions that it committed to in October 1997; (2) in November 1997, it issued a revised housing policy; (3) generally, the revised policy permits the agency to provide housing under two situations: (a) to assure timely responses to park emergencies; and (b) where parks are located in remote areas or in areas where affordable housing is not available; (4) this policy was aimed at minimizing the amount of employee housing it provides--which was consistent with the goals of the 1996 law; (5) in 1997, the Park Service also began a park-by-park housing needs assessment to determine the number of housing units needed under the new policy; (6) in order to ensure that this assessment was independent and objective, the agency hired two contractors to perform the assessment; (7) the contractors' park-by-park assessments found that the Park Service had 522 more housing units than it needed; (8) however, in reviewing the contractors' assessments, park managers and regional officials disagreed with the contractors' findings and concluded that 760 more units than they now have were needed--a difference of 1,282 units; (9) this wide divergence of opinion about how much housing the agency should provide reflects many park managers' fundamental disagreement with the revised housing policy; and (10) the disagreement with Park Service policy by park managers raises serious concerns about the credibility of future Park Service housing initiatives and any funding requests that the agency might have for providing employee housing.

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