Republican Candidates: Short on Housing Policy, Long on Houses
So we listened hard to the Republican presidential candidates' debate last night, and we didn't hear any meaningful solutions to the housing crisis. That's no surprise, considering that housing has so far been a ghost issue in the campaign. So if we can't bring you news about the GOP hopefuls' housing policies, we can at least tell you about their houses.
From Romney's waterfront mansions (one on the ocean, one on a lake) to Bachmann's golf-course home and 1,000-acre farm, the candidates own no shortage of properties. Here's a rundown of some of their prime real estate.
Romney's primary residence is in Belmont, Mass. According to the Boston Globe, the $895,000 townhouse is 2,115 square feet, has two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a cook's kitchen. That's significantly more modest than the candidate's previous house in Belmont, which he sold for $3.5 million in 2009. He also owns a $10 million vacation house on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, N.H., and a $12 million home in La Jolla, Calif.
The latter property (pictured above) made news not long ago when the San Diego Union-Tribute reported that the Republican primary contender had applied for permission to demolish the $12 million, 3,009-square-foot beachfront mansion. A campaign spokesperson said the home was "inadequate" for the needs of Romney and his wife because it could not accommodate his five married sons and 16 grandchildren. The "adequate" size? Just over 11,000 square feet.
Until plans for the expansion of his La Jolla beach house came to light, Romney seemed to have been purposefully downsizing his real estate portfolio. Since his primary run in 2008, he sold two of his houses, according to The Washington Post, swapping his large Colonial in Belmont for the more modest townhouse and selling off his off his 9,500-square-foot ski home in Park City for $5.25 million.
On Tuesday, Romney offered his solution to the housing crisis: "Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course, and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy up homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up, and let it turn around and come back up."
The sitting governor of Texas, Rick Perry resides in a five-bedroom rental mansion on the outskirts of Austin. According to the Associated Press, Perry has spent almost $600,000 in public money to live in the home, which costs more than $10,000 a month in rent, utilities and upkeep. He is living in the rental while renovations of the governor's mansion are completed. Some critics have taken shots at Perry for living in such an upscale residence on taxpayers' tab.
Property linked to Perry also stirred some controversy recently when The Washington Post revealed that a family hunting camp leased by his father for years had a racist nickname. Perry said the rock bearing the name was painted over and overturned shortly after his father leased the property.
Perry has also raised eyebrows for some past real estate deals of his own. The Dallas Morning News reported that "a series of professional courtesies and favors helped Perry buy a lot at Tony Peninsula at Horseshoe Bay, the 'Pebble Beach' of Texas, for $139,000 below market value and sell it for $350,000 above market value." Perry bought the lot (pictured above) for around $300,000 in 2000 from an associate and sold it for $1.5 million in 2007.
A vocal critic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Bachmann isn't above taking advantage of them when it suits her purposes. According to a report in the Washington Post, in 2008 Bachmann took out a home loan that offered favorable rates through one of the federally subsidized programs. The $417,000 loan--the maximum amount available at the time--was used to purchase a $760,000 home in Minnesota's Stillwater community, the Post reported. Mortgage experts hired by the Post determined that Bachmann and her husband put down $93,001, or 12 percent.
The 5,200-square-foot golf-course home, where Bachmann still lives, has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a panelled library, spa and wine cellar and was custom built for former NFL player Ross Verba in 2005.
Bachmann also owns, through a family partnership, a share of a 949-acre farm in Wisconsin (pictured above). A recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune examined how the farm has benefitted from federal subsidies, which Bachmann also opposes.
The maverick Texas congressman thinks the federal government needs to exit the housing business and let the free market decide what home prices should be. Whether you like that idea or not, Paul -- a medical doctor who delivered more than 4,000 babies before he entered politics in 1976 -- has been the only GOP candidate to offer a housing plan (assuming that "stop propping up the housing market" counts as a plan.)
Paul also aims to prove that President Obama isn't the only guy who gets the value of social media. In April, he used Facebook to announce the sale of his 5,500-square-foot Lake Jackson, Tex., house for $325,000. He also has a house website called BuyRonPaulsHouse.com.
He's owned the four-bedroom home (pictured above) for 42 years. And where are the Pauls going? If you ask him, he'd likely say the White House.
Despite his father working three jobs to be able to buy his family a house, the multimillionaire candidate -- who earned his fortunes convincing Burger King employees to smile and making Godfather's Pizza into a profitable chain -- hasn't made housing one of his top issues. Actually, if his website is an indicator, housing isn't even on his list of issues.
Cain and his wife own and live in a 3,100-square-foot home with three bedrooms in the Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge.
Reporting by AOL Real Estate Staff and La Jolla Patch editor Michelle Mowad.
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