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House Legislation Would Require Federal Employees' Return-to-Office, Agencies’ Plans on Property Leases

  • January 13, 2023
Federal Office Building

Legislation introduced in the House this week would require all federal agencies to revert to pre-pandemic office arrangements that were in effect on December 31, 2019 and give employees 30 days to return to their offices. The bill, if enacted, would also require the Biden administration to provide Congress with a plan to mitigate the negative impacts of remote work and report on agencies’ plans for federal property leases. [Bill text of (H.R. 139)]

SHOW UP Act

House Oversight and Reform Committee logo
  • The Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Actintroduced this week by House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY)—reflects the views recently expressed by The Real Estate Roundtable to President Joe Biden about the importance of getting more federal workers back to the workplace. (GlobeSt, Jan. 13  and Roundtable letter, Dec. 12, 2022)

  • The Dec. 12, 2022 letter from Roundtable Chair John Fish and President & CEO Jeff DeBoer urged the administration to consider the consequences of federal agencies’ promotion of permanent remote work—and how it magnifies ongoing, harmful economic impacts on cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. The Roundtable letter also noted how agencies should consider how hybrid work arrangements directly affect governmental service delivery and labor productivity. (Roundtable WeeklyDec. 2 and Dec. 16, 2022)

  • The SHOW UP Act would also require the administration to report to Congress on how pandemic-era telework levels affected agencies’ missions, along with federal property lease plans. (Federal News Network, Jan. 11)

  • Similar legislation was introduced in the last Congress by former Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) to address how expanded, pandemic-era telework arrangements negatively impacted agencies’ missions. (One-page backgrounder and Federal News Network, May 20, 2022)

Federal Agencies’ Leases

State of the Union address President Biden March 2022
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also recently called on President Biden to get more federal workers back to the workplace and convert underutilized commercial real estate spaces into affordable housing. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 6)

  • President Biden commented on federal return-to-the-workplace efforts in his March 2022 State of the Union address, above. “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices. We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person,” Biden said. (White House transcript, March 1, 2022)

  • A General Accounting Office (GAO) survey last year reported that 24 federal agencies planned to reduce their leased space. Sixteen agencies surveyed said they would reduce the number of leases and 19 planned to reduce square footage over the next three years. (GlobeSt, Sept. 15, 2022 and GAO Report, Sep. 7, 2022)

  • The GAO survey noted that “… in a post-COVID-19 environment agencies are likely to significantly reduce their demand for federal real estate due to changes to telework and remote policies.” A footnote in the report added, “GSA leases typically have a date after which GSA can terminate the lease with as little as 90 days’ notice.” (Full GAO report)

In addition to the Washington, DC region, cities throughout the nation are responding to the impact of hybrid work arrangements on local communities and tax bases. Roundtable members will hear about this significant issue during our Jan. 24 State of the Industry Meeting in Washington from Miami Mayor Francis Xavier Suarez, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

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