- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The federal government’s collection of unused and vacant properties is killing taxpayers. Watchdog groups say maintenance and bureaucratic red tape related to the U.S. government’s 55,000-to-77,000 vacant properties has cost taxpayers up to $8 billion so far.

An example: The government just sold off one of its buildings this month, for $19.5 million, Breitbart reports. But it took 10 years — 10 years of finding an appropriate seller and cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that winds through such sales. And during that time, taxpayers were responsible for picking up the maintenance and upkeep tab.

Another problem, Breitbart outlines: The government doesn’t even have a handle on how many properties it owns. Why?

Nobody inventories them, Breitbart says. On top of that, federal law requires that any properties the federal government wants to sell be first offered to other federal entities. State agencies get second dibs, followed by homeless shelters. Only when those avenues have been exhausted can the properties be offered for sale to the general market, Breitbart says.

“This is a problem that has been identified for years,” said Tom Shatz, of Citizens Against Government Waste, in the Breitbart report. “Every time someone in the White House says ‘let’s sell property,’ the red tape is simply too much for this process.”

Some in Congress are alert to the problem, too.

“We spend about 8 billion dollars a year maintaining properties that we have no use for. … [It’s money] just thrown down the drain,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, in the Breitbart report.

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