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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal programs that make federally-held real estate properties available to nonprofit homelessness assistance organizations, focusing on: (1) the number of properties federal agencies have provided and the geographic distribution of the properties; (2) the agencies' program publicity and promotion; and (3) nonprofit homelessness assistance organizations' obstacles to acquiring property.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status
If Congress wants to increase the use of federal foreclosed property by the homeless, it should consider providing nonprofit homelessness assistance organizations with additional assistance in financing acquisition, rehabilitation, and operating costs. Options for providing such assistance include direct payments via expansion of existing McKinney Act grants or rent subsidy programs (such as Section 8), greater flexibility in the timing of grants under these programs, more low-cost financing or short-term loans, or the four agencies absorbing costs now borne by the homelessness assistance organizations.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Housing and Urban Development 1. To help meet their needs for multifamily property, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should establish a policy that specifies appropriate circumstances and conditions under which HUD-owned multifamily property can be made available to nonprofit homelessness assistance organizations.
Closed - Implemented
HUD proposed legislation seeking authority to use up to 10 percent of its inventory of foreclosed multifamily properties for certain nontraditional purposes, including overnight shelters for the homeless. Congress amended HUD's proposal and enacted a modified policy in the HUD Reform Act of 1994. Under this policy, 10 percent of the units sold are eligible for homelessness assistance uses (other than as overnight shelters). The legislation also made eligible a number of smaller projects developed under Section 312 community development programs.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 2. The Executive Director, Interagency Council on the Homeless, as head of the organization responsible for overseeing and coordinating executive branch homelessness assistance activities, should initiate and coordinate a joint effort with appropriate representatives of the Farmers Home Administration, HUD, the Resolution Trust Corporation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and advocacy groups representing nonprofit homelessness assistance organizations at the national, state, and local levels to develop an outreach strategy that more effectively disseminates essential information on the property disposition programs available to nonprofit organizations that assist the homeless. In doing so, priority should be given to ways of achieving much wider knowledge of basic procedures for obtaining properties, such as by providing specialized technical assistance for first-time participants and information about the VA program to a wider spectrum of homelessness assistance organizations, not just veterans organizations. Special attention also should be given to finding better ways of providing organizations with up-to-date information on what properties are available in their area.
Closed - Implemented
The Interagency Council on the Homeless developed several task forces on federal foreclosed/surplus property, personal property, and Title 5. As a result of the task forces' efforts, an informational brochure on how to purchase or lease federally acquired foreclosed properties by homeless service providers was developed. The informational brochure was distributed to all of the parties on the Council's mailing list as well as to state homeless coordinators. Given the current resources of the Council, no action will be taken to provide specialized technical assistance or providing organizations with up-to-date information on what properties are available in their area.

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