Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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The Feds Have a Lot of Unused Office Space, and You’re Paying for it

The federal government owns more than 500 million square feet of office space that, annually, cost taxpayers billions of dollars — and as it turns out a lot of that space goes unused.

During selected weeks this year, most federal agencies used an estimated 25 percent or less of their headquarters’ office capacity. This is according to a report that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published this month

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the feds have a rare opportunity to cut back and save the taxpayers an enormous sum of money, the GAO said.

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The feds spend about $2 billion a year to operate and maintain federal office buildings. This is regardless of whether any agencies use them. They spend about $5 billion annually to lease office space from the private and government sectors, the report said. 

Those buildings, though, may have better uses.

“The private sector successfully converted an unneeded post office in Washington, D.C., into a hotel,” the GAO said.

“Selling a federal building to the private sector increases the local tax base, as federal buildings are generally exempt from local taxes.” 

The GAO also reported the following:

• On the higher range, agencies used an estimated 39 to 49 percent of the capacity of their headquarters on average. 

• The General Services Administration (GSA) manages approximately 1,500 federally- owned buildings, which are used by various federal agencies.

• As of April 2023, more than half of GSA’s leases (4,108 out of 7,685), which account for more than 83 million square feet of space, have expiration dates scheduled for calendar years 2023 to 2027. 

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• The GSA established a benchmark of 150 to 180 useable square feet per employee. These benchmarks and agency efforts generally assume that assigned employees would work at the office most days during the week. 

The Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform said six federal agencies use only 9 percent of their headquarters’ office space. They include the GSA, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Personnel Management Small Business Administration, and Social Security Administration. 

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