Using Vacant Federal Property to Develop Affordable Housing

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The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty is offering a helping hand to municipal governments who want access thousands of free properties from the federal government to permanently house homeless people.

The NLCHP launched it Public Property/Public Need toolkit Monday to help state and local governments and nonprofits organizations find and apply for property available under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the Law Center said in a press release. The program was started in 1987, and in December the government clarified that federal property can be used to permanently house homeless people.

“The program provides eligible homeless service providers with a right of first refusal to properties no longer needed by the federal government – including warehouses, administrative buildings, and vacant land,” the Law Center said. “The federal government is required to deed or lease these properties to successful applicants for free.”

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the Law Center and primary architect of the original McKinney-Vento Act, said in a statement that the program was a sustainable and cost effective way to combat homelessness.

“Permanent housing is the most effective and cost-effective solution to homelessness,” Foscarinis said.

“Through the Title V program, cities and non-profit service providers can turn federal properties that are now sitting vacant—and costing taxpayers money—into housing and services, ending homelessness in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

While two million people have been housed in 500 buildings on nearly 900 acres of land, the Law Center said it is only a “small fraction” of the program’s potential impact.