Criteria Needed to Help GSA Better Target Property Exchanges, GAO Finds

Developing criteria to determine when it should pursue a real property exchange would help the General Services Administration (GSA) better target promising opportunities for taking advantage of the authority, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes.

Real property exchanges, which the report calls “swap-construct” exchanges, allow the government to trade property to developers for construction services or existing facilities. The authority can help GSA deal with the challenge of disposing of unneeded property and modernizing or replacing federal buildings, but multiple factors can affect the success of such an approach, the report states.

One challenge for developers is the requirement under a property exchange to spend large sums on GSA’s construction requirements before gaining title to the federal property. GSA’s solicitations do not consistently specify its construction needs, the congressional watchdog agency found. Sometimes the viability of real property exchanges can be affected by market factors, such as the availability of alternative properties.

GSA has completed two property exchanges since 2000, according to the report. In both cases, GSA swapped underutilized properties for parking garages.

One of the three exchanges GSA is currently pursuing is a swap of the 67-acre FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., for construction of a new headquarters at a site in suburban Maryland or Virginia.


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