Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sell-Off of Unused Federal Buildings

For now, the large swaths of federal land in the west appear safe.  Yesterday, however, the White House did announce that the federal government would sell 12,000 buildings that it no longer needs.  The properties range from sheds to office buildings to unused roads to empty warehouses.  Here's an interactive map that shows were the properties are located.  And this graphic breaks down the properties by type and location.  The administration argues that improving the management of surplus property can save taxpayers $15 billion over several years.

Matt Yglesias makes a nice point that the real gains of this program won't come in the budget:

At the end of the day, by far the biggest problem with having the federal government own a warehouse it’s not using is simply that the warehouse isn’t getting used. An old warehouse could be converted into condos or a police station or a rock club, but those aren’t the kind of things the federal government runs. A private individual might just lease the property out, but again the federal government’s not a commercial real estate manager. Selling the land and the structures is the best way to get the real resources back in circulation. And as always, real resources matter a lot more than budget line items. The government can conjure up more money any time it wants. The real resources available to the country are what’s in limited supply, and the real policy upside is in putting them to better use not obtaining more dollars.

Steve Clowney


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