The government doesn’t know how many empty buildings it owns — just that they’re costing us billions

posted at 8:01 pm on March 13, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Ugghhh. Via The Hill:

President Obama on Thursday urged Congress to “do even more” on conservation projects after signing legislation protecting a 35-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s coastline.

“There are currently dozens of conservation proposals before Congress — many supported by Democrats and Republicans — that would protect important lands across the country and help grow our economy,” Obama said in a statement.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes conservation law was the first public lands designation by Congress in more than five years — the longest lawmakers had gone without making a wilderness designation in nearly 50 years.

While urging lawmakers to take up additional conservation measures, Obama pledged to “continue to do my part to protect our federal lands for future generations to enjoy.”

I’m sorry, but simply implying that adding more land to the one-third of the surface area the United States government already owns is not quite the same thing as the president doing his “part to protect our federal lands for future generations to enjoy” and simultaneously “growing the economy.” If Obama really wanted to ensure the best possible environmental and economic stewardship of those precious lands, he might start considering opening them up for public-private management setups or leasing them for other commercial uses that could actually turn their own profits — instead of subjecting them to clunky, political, top-down policy decisions and turning them into a further strain on our deferred maintenance backlog.

In that same vein, the many empty and abandoned buildings currently beefing up the federal estate are a major drain on taxpayer resources, but the bureaucracy is gummed up with rules and regulations that directly deny the properties from being put to productive uses. Via NPR:

Government estimates suggest there may be 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country. Taxpayers own them, and even vacant, they’re expensive. The Office of Management and Budget says these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. …

Wise and his colleagues have been using the only known centralized database that the government has, the Federal Property Profile, and it’s not reliable, he says. …

But Carper says that even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what it can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Those are expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another one doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits — and finally, a 25-year-old law requires the government to see whether it could be used as a homeless shelter.

Which means that federal agencies usually end up giving up and just locking the gates on these blighted opportunity costs. Instead of focusing on placing still more lands and properties under federal control, perhaps the government should be a little more focused on getting rid of some of them.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Why should they care? They don’t pay for anything. Government can only take. They spread around the fruits of other peoples labor after shimming some off for themselves. Thats what organized crime does.

Mimzey on March 13, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Must be a good idea. Otherwise……….

LeftCoastRight on March 13, 2014 at 8:10 PM

Why not, I mean who is going to force them to operate with modern efficiencies?

Murphy9 on March 13, 2014 at 8:11 PM

This is insane…

OmahaConservative on March 13, 2014 at 8:12 PM

Instead of focusing on placing still more lands and properties under federal control, perhaps the government should be a little more focused on getting rid of some of them.

Nope, never. The government doesn’t work that way. If it’s possible to get larger in any context it will, regardless of the cost or waste.

climbnjump on March 13, 2014 at 8:12 PM

Well, I’ll name one of these properties. The old L. Mendell Rivers Federal Building in Charleston (SC). Prime real estate and completely abandoned but on the list of federal properties. If put up for sale, it would be sold in seconds.

Happy Nomad on March 13, 2014 at 8:15 PM

The State legislatures should start rescinding permission for the federal government to utilize land on a parcel by parcel basis.

If not that declare eminent domain. The federal government has not been a good nor honest steward of the lands put in its trust, and that permission needs to be revoked.

ajacksonian on March 13, 2014 at 8:16 PM

Let’s put this incompetence in charge of our health care!

rbj on March 13, 2014 at 8:21 PM

We waste $Billions each and every damn year because of the ferderal government

D-fusit on March 13, 2014 at 8:23 PM

HHS and Sebelius must be the ones doing the counting.

NavyMustang on March 13, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Government estimates suggest there may be 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country.

Imagine how fast our Founders are spinning in their graves.

CWchangedhisNicagain on March 13, 2014 at 8:29 PM

It actually cuts the deficit.

Brand new gulags would cost more.

wolly4321 on March 13, 2014 at 8:36 PM

This is insane…

OmahaConservative on March 13, 2014 at 8:12 PM

Totally unfair, OC. Insanity would be more like if the Federal government did the same thing, over and over, year after decade, building after building…and expected different results. That would be insane.

Jaibones on March 13, 2014 at 8:38 PM

Convert them to prison space for administration and IRS officials. Make sure the buildings are asbestos-abundant.

Boomslang Joe on March 13, 2014 at 8:39 PM

Doesn’t the military need target practice from time to time?

GarandFan on March 13, 2014 at 9:17 PM

It actually cuts the deficit.

Brand new gulags would cost more.

wolly4321 on March 13, 2014 at 8:36 PM

There is a train waiting for you. Take only what you need for a day.

oldroy on March 13, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Abandoned buildings in some cities spontaneously combust. A house mysteriously burned down near here that was being remodeled for a homeless and ex-con shelter.

crankyoldlady on March 13, 2014 at 9:44 PM

If not that declare eminent domain.

ajacksonian on March 13, 2014 at 8:16 PM

I think we have found a good use for the Kelo decision! Declare eminent domain, then give the land to a developer for free, plus the consideration that he has to totally mitigate any issues like asbestos. Then dare the feds to do anything about it.

(The feds might actually welcome that approach, as it would take these things off their hands. Of course, they might not like the federalism it implies…..)

GWB on March 14, 2014 at 9:54 AM