House Confidential: Sen. Ron Johnson’s $1 Million DC Home » Urban Milwaukee
Michael Horne
House Confidential

Sen. Ron Johnson’s $1 Million DC Home

It may be his second home, but it boasts three cozy fireplaces and a wet bar for entertaining.

By - Dec 16th, 2013 01:29 pm
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Ron Johnson's home. Photo by Michael Horne.

Ron Johnson’s home. Photo by Michael Horne.

Washington, D.C. — On February 2nd, 2011, while the oath of office was still fresh on his lips, Senator Ron Johnson bought a million dollar home on Capitol Hill just blocks from his Washington office. Many a senator buys a condo or apartment for those days when Congress is in session and a place to stay is required. But Wisconsin’s senior senator sought a higher standard of comfort.

Last week, House Confidential took a road trip to the formerly shabby neighborhood to see what a million bucks can buy you nowadays.

The 2430 square foot residence has 3 bedrooms and 3-1/2 baths on its three levels. (No basement, though). It is an attached row house, squeezed between others of similar size and vintage. But it is not as old as it looks. The Johnson home and its immediate neighbors date to 1964, yet blend in seamlessly with structures of much earlier vintage. This is thanks, in part, to the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, created in 1955 to maintain the architectural integrity of the area near the US Capitol, the nation’s largest Victorian residential district, which had fallen on hard times. Thanks, bureaucrats, for meddling with untrammeled free enterprise! We would never have seen such high property values without you.

The home has a fireplace in the living room, another in the master bedroom and still another somewhere else. It has central air conditioning and gas-powered forced air heat. A natural gas water heater supplies the senator’s bathing and clothes washing needs. The senator’s kitchen is modern with granite counters and stainless steel fixtures. It has a wet bar (you never know when another senator might drop by), a dishwasher, a garbage disposal and a microwave. The range and oven are natural gas, and there is an entry-level bedroom to conveniently stow guests away from the main living floor, which like the others, is hardwood. The interior condition of the building is “very good,” and the exterior is “good.” Overall, the condition is rated “very good” by the assessor.

Photo of Ron Johnson's home in 2004.

Photo of Ron Johnson’s home in 2004.

The front garden is surrounded by a low wall separating it from the brick sidewalk, a common District feature. The sunny, small courtyard is traditionally landscaped, but less-than-traditionally maintained. A Crape Myrtle is the central decorative feature. It certainly has grown since 2004! It is now so high that its smooth-barked branches provide support for a squirrel’s nest. Desicated plants droop from the home’s window boxes, and the planters outside the front door have seen better days. A Japanese Maple may soon show some vigor, if not form. Its spent leaves still litter the ground, their bright red colors fading. The highlight of the landscaping without doubt is a full rosemary bush that fragrantly extends onto the public way. Such a plant could never withstand the rigors of a Wisconsin winter. Yet, in the much milder Washington climate, the plant remains green, supple, fragrant and just a few months overdue for a trim. (Rosemary boughs smell simply lovely when tossed on the crackling embers of a bedroom fireplace.)

The senator has a parking space at his disposal at the rear of the property in a dead-end alley shared with his neighbors. An unadorned cinderblock wall some 7 feet high separates this from his private rear-yard garden, a perfect place for a cup of tea, or a party — maybe a Tea Party tea party. A new wooden fence of rather unfinished appearance and a gate to match are recent additions to the rear of the home. Perhaps Johnson consulted his brother Dean Johnson, the host of Hometime on PBS, for these decorative elements. Upon second look, perhaps not.

But Johnson has been busy in the home. In November, 2011 he took out a permit for “Interior demolition of fixtures and non load bearing partitions through out existing 2nd and 3rd floors.” In the same month, Johnson also took out a permit for “total replacement of the exterior windows and second floor north door.” He has also been issued “supplemental” electrical, gas and plumbing permits.

To say that Johnson bought the home is not exactly correct. the senator and his wife rent the home, sending their monthly check to the “Ronald H. Johnson and Jane K. Johnson Irrevocable Endowment Trust, Jane K. Johnson, Trustee.” The trust bought the property for $1,050,000 cash. The main Johnson residence, a lakefront home in the Town of Oshkosh, is also worth about a million bucks, but has a better view, and a much bigger yard.

The DC home was assessed at a total of $994,970 for 2013, and has a proposed 2014 assessment of $1,075,730, putting the Johnsons above water on their property in this very expensive city.  The Irrevocable Endowment Trust is already in the black! The land is valued at $393,950, or a hefty $225 per square foot, and the improvements at $681,780. [By contrast, the land beneath the U.S. Bank Building, Milwaukee’s most valuable property, is assessed at only $100 per square foot.]

The property taxes, payable in two semiannual installments, amounted to $8,457.24 and are paid in full by the trustee. [Johnson paid about $19,000 taxes on his $1.1 million Wisconsin home.] The Capitol Hill neighborhood is in zip code 20002, where real estate values have not only recovered from the lows of 2008, they have topped the highs of 2005. The average home sale in the area in 2013 was $460,628. In 2000, the average was just $154,628. We shall not see those days (or prices) again.

Take your tour bus elsewhere! No buses allowed on Ron Johnson's quiet side street in Washington. Photo by Michael Horne.

Take your tour bus elsewhere! No buses allowed on Ron Johnson’s quiet side street in Washington. Photo by Michael Horne.

The Senator’s Commute

The residence, on Constitution Avenue, is a four minute walk from Johnson’s Hart Senate Office Building suite. From there it is another four minute walk to the United States Capitol. The senator may instead elect to take the Senate Subway from his office to the Capitol, saving even more time. In fact he could be soaking in his tub at home and still make it to the Senate floor in the 15 minutes he has to respond to a quorum call or vote.

Fun Fact

The Johnson trust, in addition to the residence, also owns three patents and one application for such things as a “system and method for developing high output power nanosecond range pulses from continuous wave semiconductor laser systems.”

Ron Johnson in Milwaukee

Sen. Ron Johnson held a “Town Hall Meeting” at Milwaukee City Hall on Friday, December  6th, 2013 where he delivered his “State of the Nation” address. Room 301-B of the Great Hall of the People was dominated by a chart outlining what the senator feels is an unsustainable level of federal spending relative to gross domestic product. This is a popular topic for the Heritage Foundation, located just blocks from Johnson’s Washington home.

Although the US government spending is among the lowest in the world, as a percent of GDP, and about the same as it was under President Ronald Reagan, it is a concern to conservatives like Johnson.  However, Johnson parted from his Tea Party colleagues on the matter of the government shutdown this fall. In fact, he is one of 19 co-sponsors of an act to end this policy.

The shutdown created a “drag” on the Washington, D.C. real estate market, according to an article in the Washington Post on December 10th, 2013:

“The 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government in early October created a drag on the Washington area housing market, causing home sales to plummet, purchase contracts to dwindle and the number of properties for sale to wane,” according to the article.

“After seven months of double-digit annual gains, November sales hit the brakes, falling to 3,068. It was the largest drop in more than two years. Sales of homes in the region were down 21.2 percent from the previous month and 13.7 percent from November 2012.”

The Rundown

  • Style: Federal-style brick rowhouse
  • Location: Washington, District of Columbia
  • Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
  • Walk Score: 86 out of 100. “Very Walkable” The Punk Rock Bride shop is just .2 miles away. Johnson can drop off an article at Policy Review Magazine .3 miles away.
  • Bike Score: 96 out of 100. “Biker’s Paradise.”
  • Street Smart Walk Score: 97 out of 100. “Walker’s Paradise”
  • Transit Score:  96 out of 100. “Excellent Transit”
  • Size: 2,430 square feet.
  • Year Built: 1964. New door and fence and other improvements in 2011.
  • Assessed Value: Land —  $393,950; Improvements — $681,780 Total —  $1,075,730
  • Taxes —  $8,457.24 Paid in full. Thanks to the federal government’s many subsidies of the District of Columbia, its vibrant commercial properties and dense development, residents enjoy relatively low property taxes. In Milwaukee, a tax bill for a property of the same value would be $32,218.11. Johnson, as a non-homestead resident forgoes the District’s standard deduction of the first $69,000 of property value. Furthermore, as a non-district resident, he is also not subject to the District of Columbia income tax. The income tax provides revenue that Milwaukee would have to derive from ad valorem taxes.

Photo Gallery

Bonus! Photo tour of home: http://tour.homevisit.com/view/47936

Categories: House Confidential

7 thoughts on “House Confidential: Sen. Ron Johnson’s $1 Million DC Home”

  1. tim haering says:

    Did you do a profile like this for KOhl? Feingold? HOw about one for Baldwin now and the rest of our MCs?

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @tim haering. Michael has in fact done a House Confidential for Kohl: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2013/08/02/house-confidential-herb-kohls-regency-condo/ but not Feingold or Baldwin.. yet.

  3. Jim F says:

    How about one on Tom Petri. Our mostly anonymous member of congress who I hear has some pretty nice digs in DC and doesn’t spend much time is WI

  4. Jim F.
    Thanks for the suggestion about Rep. Petri. We’ll have to see when House Confidential does its next D.C. Roadtrip. But the next Plenty of Horne manages to tie in Petri, River Hills, Georgetown and the perils of Affluenza. Stay tuned!

  5. hereiam says:

    Mr. Michael Horne, you forgot to answer the usual question of how Milwaukee his home is.

    As far as Rep. Petri, I would imagine his home hasn’t been profiled because he doesn’t represent Milwaukee.

  6. Tom D says:

    hereiam, Tom Petri’s 6th Congressional District includes part of Milwaukee County (River Hills), so Tom Petri does indeed represent part of Milwaukee.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Tom D, Jim F, and hereiam Horne will get to Petri one day… Ron Johnson was just on our/his mind as he had just done that townhall meeting in Milwaukee.

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