Ruling in McKinney Surplus Property Case

By Staff

Vol. 11, No. 4, 1989, p. 23

A homeless support group in Huntsville, Ala., has lost a federal court action aimed at forcing the U.S. Navy to make an unused warehouse available for shelter. However, the judge's ruling does establish a government obligation to make underutilized federal properties available to the homeless under the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.

Judge Oliver Gash ruled in National Coalition for the Homeless, et al., v. Veterans Administration, et al., that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was violating the McKinney Act by failing to process applications from groups seeking to use "underutilized" federal property for shelters or housing for the homeless. HHS had maintained that its only responsibility was for "surplus" property and that other agencies had to process applications for property they still owned but were not using, thus frustrating applications from support groups interested in using the properties under the McKinney Act.

The Gash ruling is considered a step forward by housing activists, even though in the Huntsville case the judge ruled that the Navy property in question was on land owned by the City of Huntsville and the Navy was thus justified in turning the building on the site over to the City.