Is It Time For A Government ‘Yard Sale’ To Get Rid Of Old Real Estate?

The looming fiscal cliff has some wondering if it isn’t time for the United States government to hold the mother of all yard sales and get rid of some excess real estate holdings to bring in some extra cash. When a typical American family needs to quickly garner some extra cash to go on vacation or help pay the bills, a yard sale is often held. Considering the condition of the nation’s bottom line, some are calling for federal entities to do the same thing.

The federal government is simply sitting on billions of dollars in real estate assets that could be sold and the profit put to good use, according to Fox News. In 2010, President Barack Obama’s deficit commission selected 64,000 buildings that were deemed underutilized, excessive, or vacant. The Obama administration commission recommended that the identified real estate be sold.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that some real estate holdings that were rated in excellent condition by the Federal Real Property Council (FRPC) were actually severely dilapidated. The GAO also found that 23 of 26 locations toured were identified as having inaccuracies and inconsistencies when compared with FRPC report data.

Competitive Enterprise Institute representative Myron Ebell had this to say about a government sell of unnecessary real estate:

“So instead of raising taxes, which takes money out of the economy and lowers economic activity, we ought to be looking at selling federal assets.”

General Services Administration (GSA) former administrator Lurita Doan believes that the obstacle to selling off government owned real estate has been lawmakers getting in the way of selling off property in their districts and states.

The GSA, the federal agency tasked with managing government real estate assets, noted that the United States government owns almost 630 million acres of land and 900,000 buildings. The federal government reportedly owns 28 percent of the land in America and $500 billion in mineral rights.

According to Doan’s estimates, selling 20 percent of the vacant or underutilized government owned structures would save approximately $2 billion. Selling Amtrack would reportedly bring $60 billion.

The fiscal cliff debate has largely centered around the possibility of raising taxes and cutting funding to social programs. Should lawmakers toss the idea of unloading underutilized and vacant real estate onto the discussion table?