The 132-year-old brick structure is sitting on prime real estate six blocks from the White House. It was once a school, but it's been vacant for almost three decades.
"All the walls are peeled, there's collapsed ceilings, there's moisture problems. It runs pretty much the gamut," Wise says.
Government estimates suggest there may be 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country. Taxpayers own them, and even vacant, they're expensive. The Office of Management and Budget says these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year.
That's because someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, pay for some basic power — even when the buildings are just sitting empty.
The case for selling off underutilized buildings is pretty straightforward: The government gets cash, which will help with the budget deficit, and gets to reduce spending in the long run. Since, to paraphrase Dave Barry, selling off under-utilized buildings makes sense and the people want it, it won’t happen.
More to the point, though, the bigger problem at hand is not that the government won’t do this, but that virtually no one in the government, and very few voting taxpayers are actually serious about fiscal responsibility. On the obvious side, the government has been running a budget deficit every year since ’94, with the lone exception of 2000 (incidentally, the last year of Clinton’s presidency, FWIW). The federal deficit has been $500+ billion for a decade.
Furthermore, the American people aren’t much better. American consumers owe more than $11 trillion in debt (again, this is NOT government debt). The average American household has a mortgage of $154k, student loans of $34k, and credit card debts of $15k.
Neither the American government nor the American people exercise fiscal prudence. Neither are responsible with money. Is it any surprise, then, that the government that represents the American people is utterly incapable of cutting out budgetary waste so as to improve its financial standing?