Court Victory for Homeless Advocates Seeking Vacant Federal Property

The federal government is obligated to offer homeless service providers unused government property for free before trying to sell it. However, the court found that many federal agencies “appear to be hiding potentially eligible properties from the Title V process” — and that this widespread form of land banking is illegal.

by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

 

After years of legal advocacy by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, a federal court has ruled that the U.S. government is not meeting its obligations under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act.

Under Title V, the federal government is obligated to offer homeless service providers unused government property for free before trying to sell it.

“HOUSING FOR ALL! NOW!” Artwork by Josh MacPhee

However, the court found that many federal agencies “appear to be hiding potentially eligible properties from the Title V process” — and that this widespread form of land banking is illegal.

This ruling is a critical win for homeless service providers, who have used Title V properties to provide affordable housing, shelter, food, and job training to more than two million people experiencing homelessness each year.

With homelessness growing in recent years — more than one million homeless students are now enrolled in the country’s public schools — the program is more crucial than ever. The Law Center will soon release a report outlining Title V’s successes and offering recommendations for how it could be made an even more effective resource.

In June 2011, the Obama administration brought a motion to vacate a long-standing injunction governing how it runs Title V on the grounds that it has an “unassailable record” of compliance with the law. The government provided no evidence of their alleged compliance, however, and in his ruling, Chief Judge Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said it was “baffling” that the administration thought the court would accept its claim of compliance on nothing other than its own say-so.

As a result of this litigation, not only was the injunction on the government not set aside, but the Law Center was also able to enlarge the injunction’s requirements to include a mandate on the government to improve their training, monitoring, and reporting of properties while the order is in place.

The Law Center is grateful to Covington & Burling, who argued in court on our behalf, for their tireless efforts to protect Title V and hold the Obama administration accountable to the law.

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