The federal government spends $1.7 billion a year maintaining empty or underutilized buildings, NPR reports. Exact figures are hard to come by, because the government doesn't even have an accurate list of what it owns:
Some buildings listed as being in great shape had trees growing through the roofs. And many buildings weren't even on the list....
Even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit it from doing so. 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 if it could be used as a homeless shelter.
Many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.
Lest this be written off as an attack on the Obama administration by some Republicans or right-wing advocacy group, remember, this is a report by NPR, and the leader of the effort to reform this system is identified by NPR as Senator Carper, a Democrat of Delaware.