The House of Representatives has approved legislation that aims to reduce the inventory of excess federal properties while redeveloping valuable assets. The House cleared the bill, the Civilian Property Realignment Act, on Feb. 7 by a 259-164 vote. If enacted, the legislation would provide opportunities for the redevelopment of federal buildings.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), now heads to the Senate. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate but it has just one sponsor and no action has been taken on it.

Modeled after the Dept. of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, the House-passed bill would create a nine-member commission to review the federal real estate inventory and make recommendations to Congress about selling or redeveloping high-value properties, consolidating federal space and streamlining the disposal of assets deemed unneeded.

Denham, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on public buildings, said, “In fiscal year 2009, the federal government wasted more than $1.7 billion in operating under-used buildings. This is outrageous.” 

He added, “Unfortunately, under existing law, selling these vacant and underutilized properties is not easy—the process is too cumbersome and congested with red-tape.  The administration has tried, but realized it cannot achieve major savings without reform.  My bill streamlines the process to sell these properties, eliminate waste and promote economic growth.”

The Obama administration, which proposed a similar plan last year, issued a statement saying the House bill "does not go far enough to create a transformative process that would save taxpayers billions of dollars," but it stopped short of a veto warning.

The Office and Management and Budget said in the statement, released on Feb. 6, that recommendations of the House bill's commission would have to be approved by both houses of Congress. But the administration's plan would follow the DOD BRAC procedure, which would have the commission's recommendations take effect unless Congress disapproves them.

In addition, OMB said the House bill exempts too many properties from those the commission would consider.

Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Institute of Architects support the bill, saying that the federal government, as the nation’s largest holder of real estate, has the opportunity to influence the development and use of integrated building  operation, maintenance and space utilization practices.