The Washington Post: Looking to buy property? The federal government has at least 12,000 to choose from
May 04 2011
No, the U.S. Capitol isn’t on the list of excess buildings, but the folks who work inside would have to sign off on plans before the government can sell any available buildings off. (Andrew Harrer - BLOOMBERG) The federal government owns at least 12,000 structures it no longer needs, and the White House is unveiling plans today that could eventually save taxpayers about $15 billion by getting rid of them.
If enacted by Congress, the Obama administration’s proposal would establish a panel of seven experts modeled on the military’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission to review the thousands of addresses. Officials with the Office of Management and Budget are scheduled to share more details with reporters later Wednesday.
The federal government is the nation’s largest land owner, with an annual building operation and maintenance budget running more than $20 billion, according to the White House.
As part of the plan, the feds are publishing a new database that allows users to search down to the street level to locate extra buildings the government is ready to sell or divest.
According to the database (which doesn’t permit you to link to specific properties), there’s a 121,299-square foot building available in downtown Bethesda, at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. There are also 176 excess properties in Beltsville--mostly storage sheds, warehouses and utility buildings on the campus of the Henry A. Wallace Agricultural Research Center.
In some cases, administration officials familiar with the plans but unauthorized to speak on the record said late Tuesday, the government hopes to sell the properties at market value. But in many cases, the structures — like those storage sheds in Beltsville — would either be demolished or handed over to state or local government agencies for their use, because it wouldn’t be prudent to sell individual storage sheds on government property to private owners.
Part of the administration's proposed reforms include finding a way to merge more than a dozen laws dictating how the federal government can sell its property, administration officials said. One of the laws, for example, requires agencies to consider converting excess structures into local homeless shelters.
If enacted as-is by Congress (always a big if), the White House’s plans would require the panel of property experts to review property owned by civilian agencies. They would not consider military structures, buildings involved in national or homeland security, national parks, wildlife refuges, or historic sites, the White House said.
The plans have the early support of Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who said last month that he’s considering them as part of legislation he was already writing. “Clearly this is an area where the federal government gets better results for less money by reducing the amount of property we own and by better managing the property we keep,” Carper said.