Thursday, April 11, 2013

Judge Rules to Free Unused Federal Building Space for Nonprofits Serving the Homeless

In Judge: Agencies have been ‘hiding’ federal properties that could be used to house services for homeless, the Washington Post reports that Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently found that the federal government has been underreporting the number of unused federal properties potentially available to groups serving the homeless, in violation of a federal law. Says the Post,

The ruling orders the General Services Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take additional steps to ensure agencies are following the law, including creating new training programs. …

The law in question is Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act, which requires federal agencies to list unused, surplus or underutilized properties in the Federal Register, and reach out to homeless services providers — nonprofits and state and local governments — that can apply to lease the properties at no charge. Under the law, providers are to get a 60-day period where they get right of first refusal to those properties. This is important because one of the greatest costs to running homeless services is real estate, and the law is meant to allow nonprofits to gain access to buildings they may not be able to afford on the open market.

The story further explains that the litigation producing Judge Lamberth’s ruling began in 1988, when the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty and other nonprofits sued several federal agencies.  A 1993 permanent injunction ordered the government to implement the relevant law and preserved the plaintiffs’ right “to bring the issue before a court again for enforcement if agencies were not complying with the law.”

For an overview of the Title V program, see here.


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