GAO: Improve BRAC Homeless Assistance Process

During the 2005 BRAC homeless assistance process, it took the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) an average of 666 days to approve the 51 redevelopment plans that included notices of interest for homeless assistance, adding to the delay in providing homeless assistance in base closure communities and slowing the base reuse process, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

In “Military Base Realignments and Closures: Process for Reusing Property for Homeless Assistance Needs Improvements,” GAO concluded that HUD lacked the resources to complete its timely review in most cases. “According to HUD officials, two HUD headquarters staff members were assigned to review 125 LRA redevelopment plans, 51 of which had notices of interest from homeless assistance providers. HUD staff suggested that additional, temporary staff at the headquarters level and increased involvement of field staff could potentially expedite the review times, although they stated additional funding would be required,” the report said. ”However, HUD has not fully developed options to address reviewing the surge of plans.”

Addressing HUD’s lack of staff resources in the review process was among the recommendations contained in the report. “Without a means to ensure that sufficient staff resources are dedicated to HUD’s review process, it will be difficult for HUD to provide reasonable assurance that the delays experienced during BRAC 2005 will not be repeated in the event of future BRAC rounds, potentially hindering the effectiveness of the homeless assistance process as established and ultimately the redevelopment of the closed base.”

GAO also found that neither HUD nor DOD requires tracking the long-term status of property that has been conveyed to homeless assistance providers in order to determine the actual effectiveness of the program. “According to a HUD general counsel official, HUD has no oversight over the homeless assistance program after it approves the redevelopment plans. Consequently, HUD does not know whether providers are receiving different assistance than what was approved in the redevelopment plan,” according to the report. “HUD also does not know whether providers are using the conveyed properties as stated in their plans.”

The report continued: “Moreover, DOD officials told us they also do not have oversight over the properties after conveyance to homeless assistance providers, adding that, in their view, this does not fall under DOD’s responsibilities. According to the officials, the BRAC homeless assistance process was designed for DOD to dispose of the property and then be removed from the process.”

Despite these and other critiques cited in the report, GAO found that BRAC surplus property did help homeless assistance programs in base closure communities. “[S]ome providers said that the BRAC homeless assistance process elevated awareness of homelessness issues for those making the decisions concerning the conveyance of BRAC surplus property. Other providers said they may not have had access to this type of no-cost conveyance without the BRAC process putting them as a lead contender for the property.”

Report Recommendations

In addition to improvements to HUD’s allocation of staff resources to the reuse plan review process, GAO recommended updating the BRAC homeless assistance regulations to require tracking of conveyances to homeless assistance providers and clearly identify what information should be given to homeless assistance providers during tours of base property. GAO further suggested DOD and HUD improve the overall process by providing sufficient and clear information and guidance about the process to local redevelopment authorities and homeless assistance providers.

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