Patterico's Pontifications

3/28/2010

Vacant Federal Buildings Cost Millions

Filed under: Economics,Government — DRJ @ 8:01 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

ABC News reports the federal government spends millions each year maintaining vacant and underused buildings, including $170M a year for VA buildings:

“The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that the Veterans Administration alone is spending $170 million a year maintaining its vacant and underused buildings. Government-wide, the cost is much greater.

“It’s a lot of money. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars every year to be able to just repair these properties,” said Mark Goldstein, GAO’s director for physical infrastructure issues.

But the empty government buildings are not just costly eyesores, they are also public hazards. A dead body was found in an abandoned courthouse in Kansas City.”

Some of the properties have been vacant for years and even decades. The answer? The long-term vacancies should be sold, scrapped or given away. This isn’t the best time to sell commercial property but it’s an even worse time to pay huge sums to maintain unused and, in many cases, unusable properties.

And it’s another example of how government bureaucracy costs money and does a poor job allocating resources.

— DRJ

15 Responses to “Vacant Federal Buildings Cost Millions”

  1. SHAZZAM!!!

    What would we do if our media watchdogs were not on the job 24/7?

    “Some of the properties have been vacant for years and even decades.”

    daleyrocks (718861)

  2. Would anyone be surprised to find that the government has bought new buildings or rented additional space this year even while spending a fortune maintaining the empty buildings?

    No business would be so nonchalant about wasting so much money. Just as no business would be so nonchalant about giving raises during a recession or not caring that so many employees travel first class (remember Copenhagen).

    Government unions are a big source of the problems – there’s no accountability for wasting money.

    MU789 (bfc2e9)

  3. I am not worried about vacant federal buildings.

    I am worried about Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Henry Waxman, Chuck Schumer….

    Vacant people in federal buildings.

    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  4. #2 MU789:

    Would anyone be surprised to find that the government has bought new buildings or rented additional space this year even while spending a fortune maintaining the empty buildings?

    Not at all.

    While it could always be better managed (the government manages to focus on a lot of tasks that aren’t in its job description to begin with), there will always be some waste simply because of the scale of the government.

    The challenge, since there is no perfect solution, is to reduce the waste to as practical a level as possible.

    And remember, the goal of the government is not only for the government not to be cheated, but also not to cheat citizens who just happen to be vendors to the government as well: so there are myriad reasons why wasteful spending (or even just wasteful holding of assets) happens.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  5. I agree government has special concerns that businesses and individuals don’t. Thus, I don’t object to the higher building costs needed to ensure government security and access. I don’t think it’s waste to build a larger-than-needed federal building to accommodate future expansion and needs, nor is it wasteful to have vacant buildings in the short-term.

    But I think it’s clear waste to let federal buildings sit vacant for 10+ years as this report shows has occurred. Not only does that delay dealing with issues like removing asphalt or complying with local health and safety codes, but the deterioration and blight that such vacant buildings cause their neighborhoods is a factor the government should be especially concerned about.

    DRJ (daa62a)

  6. #5 DRJ:

    But I think it’s clear waste to let federal buildings sit vacant for 10+ years

    Absolutely. But the solution is to return government to its Constitutionally mandated functions. Attempts to “reform the system” and “trim the waste” are doomed to failure from the beginning because they don’t address the fundamental problem: the size of the government.

    As a side note, I got into the habit of challenging prices in the military supply system on a regular basis back when I was on active duty. At a minimum of one a month for several years, I never had a successful challenge: all the prices that seemed exorbitant were “justified” (they met all of the contracting regulations).

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  7. “But I think it’s clear waste to let federal buildings sit vacant for 10+ years”

    DRJ – I agree, but what would motivate a federal government department to give up unused office space? It reduces their “empire” and budgeting needs. What department would voluntarily shrink in size? Are there performance metrics in the public sector as in the private sector to make shrinking a positive or it just viewed as an admission that the affected department has become less vital.

    Even less likely, IMHO, is turning over unused space to an unrelated department. Hey, we might need that again in 40 years!

    daleyrocks (718861)

  8. There’s one thing politicians and bureaucrats hate more than giving up empire: Being exposed. (Figuratively exposed, that is, although they may also fear literal exposure given Massa’s story about Rahm and decades of other Beltway stories.) That’s why I’m glad ABC reported this, and that’s why I posted on it.

    DRJ (daa62a)

  9. #7 daleyrocks:

    It reduces their “empire” and budgeting needs.

    As that wily old economist and political historian C. Northcote Parkinson noted, government in a democracy grows at a compound rate of 5.85 to 6.1%, barring revolution. It never gets smaller, on its own.
    One of them natural laws, like gravity, that is.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  10. This is a feature not a bug of government. government’s motive is not profit, or productivity, or getting rid of waste. government’s motive is to gain power/votes with you the taxpayers money. Every building that is being upkept is supplying money to votes or a donor that gives more money to the politican so he can gain more votes.

    this is why govenrment can not help you and why all government is made up of waste fraud and abuse. to get rid of the waste you need to limit government and the money they have. they will still waste what they are left with but with less pwoer they have less power to screw things up

    unseen (f8f32d)

  11. But… but… i am sure health care will be run efficiently.

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  12. As that wily old economist and political historian C. Northcote Parkinson noted, government in a democracy grows at a compound rate of 5.85 to 6.1%, barring revolution. It never gets smaller, on its own.
    One of them natural laws, like gravity, that is.

    And that is why Jefferson thought we needed a revolution every generation or so.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  13. Each city where one of these all but abandoned buildings is located should use eminent domain to take the property and put it up for sale. The city will get $$ for the property and then in property taxes that they are currently being denied.

    kimsch (2ce939)

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