Despite the availability of government-owned property, the amount and cost of space leased for federal agencies continues to increase, the General Accounting Office reported.

In a recent study, GAO found that the amount of spcae leased annually by the General Services Administration, Uncle Sam's property manager, rose from 68 million square feet costing $282 million in fiscal 1973 to 88 million square feet costing $473 million in 1977.

In surveying government property in four cities - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and New Orleans - the GAO found opportunities for cancelling 33 leases valued at $6.2 million and eliminating proposed construction worth $40.8 million by utilizing vacant or underused government space.

Reasons for this discrepancy include the unwillingness of agencies to locate and that of the GSA to oblige them to do so.

GSA countered that it had insufficient funds to survey space availability and needs and to renovate properties where necessary. GSA's supplemental budget request for $125 million to do major repairs was cut to $75 million last July.

GAO suggested in its report that GSA should exert stronger leadership "where the agencies" parochial interest clearly outweigh those of the taxpayers and where the agencies's missions would not be adversely affected."