From the backyard of his house in Baton Rouge, Bill Cassidy has an unobstructed view, straight across the lake, of the dream home of the man whose seat in the United States Senate he now occupies.
In the early 1930s, Huey P. Long purchased a prized tract of land “on the premiere point of the LSU Lakes Peninsula.” The Kingfish didn’t live long enough to move into the 8,465 square foot Greek Revival mansion, but his widow Rose and son Russell, both of whom would also serve in the Senate—Rose for a little over a year, Russell for 38 years and three days, from December 31, 1948 to January 3, 1987—moved in following Huey’s death in 1935.
After its newest owner, Baton Rouge developer Tommy Spinosa, defaulted on more than $3.2 million in loans, the iconic home at 498 S. Lakeshore Drive became ensnared in a “tangled legal web.” Today, though, it is back on the market.
It’s an amazing piece of real estate, but instead of telling you about it, why not take a look for yourself?
Listing price? A cool $3.9 million.
If you’ve got a few million bucks to spare and are a Louisiana history buff, make an offer. The home has been sitting on the market since late August of 2019, so who knows?
The Long House may not be worth $3.9 million, but it’s definitely worth more than $1.5 million, which is what the East Baton Rouge Tax Assessor pegs as its market value.
But even at $1.5 million, the Long House would still be worth more than four times as much as what the Tax Assessor estimates as the market value of Sen. Cassidy’s 6,400 square foot lakefront mansion on a triple-sized lot, directly across the lake.
Ask any realtor in Baton Rouge, and they’ll tell you that it’s extraordinarily rare for a home like his to go on the market.
Currently, aside from the Long House, there are only three comparable properties listed for sale: A pair of three bedrooms homes, one for $2 million and the other for $1.4 million, and a gargantuan six bedroom house for $1.9 million. But as the adage goes, the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, and unlike Cassidy’s residence and the Long House, all three properties aren’t on the lake; they’re across the street, and that makes a world of difference.
Cassidy and his wife Laura moved into the home, located less than a quarter of a mile from LSU, in 1990, when he was just 35 years old.
To be clear, the Cassidys aren’t the only people with a lakefront home and an absurdly low tax assessment, and when they bought the place in 1990, they got a steal of a deal: $220,000.
But even if one accepts the purchase price in 1990 as fair, $220,000 in 1990 would be $443,000 in today’s dollars. In other words, according to the tax assessor, their home’s value has actually plummeted. In today’s dollars, they would have spent $85,000 more than they should have.
Bill Cassidy certainly recognizes how valuable the house is.
According to financial disclosure reports filed with the Office of the Secretary of the Senate and the Louisiana Ethics Administration and publicly-available tax records, he has taken out no fewer than three mortgages on the property since 2010, totaling $1.137 million. His most recent mortgage, $720,000 in 2016, consolidated the previous two at a more favorable interest rate. This suggests that Cassidy and his mortgage broker both believe the home is worth more than twice as much as its assessed value.
In addition to the $720,000 mortgage on his Baton Rouge home, Cassidy also simultaneously took out a $936,000 mortgage on his 1,359 square foot, three-bedroom townhouse Washington, D.C., a stone’s throw away from the Capitol, shortly after he purchased the property for $1.17 million in May 2016.
Cassidy’s mortgage debt—$1,656,000— is the primary reason his net worth, at least on paper, ranks near the very bottom of the list in the Senate, 98 out of 100.
If you’re not a property owner in Baton Rouge, Cassidy’s absurdly low property assessment may seem trivial. But if you are, then you know that it’s effectively allowed him to avoid paying his fair share in taxes.
When factoring in Louisiana’s famously generous homestead exemption, Cassidy pays $2,713.85 a year in property taxes. He should be paying at least two to three times as much.
Baton Rouge relies on property tax revenue to fund its schools, its transit system, its fire and police departments, its parks and recreational facilities, its emergency medical and mental health services, and its libraries, among other things.
Some may suggest that his tax assessment is so low because there aren’t enough comparable properties or because he’s been in the same home for nearly 30 years. But just recently, the parish began comprehensively reassessing homes all throughout the city, raising the values of countless homes in neighborhoods not nearly as exclusive well above the price it places on the Senator’s house.
I reached out to Cassidy for comment, and Ty Bofferding, his campaign spokesperson, responded via email. “To your question regarding the East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor’s assessment,” he wrote. “I’d refer you to the East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor.”
But my question wasn’t for the Tax Assessor. I merely wanted to know whether Sen. Cassidy agreed with the assessed value. Put another way, did he think he was paying his fair share? Considering the $720,000 in value he extracted from the home only four years ago, I think it’s safe to assume that his silence is an admission.
The East Baton Rouge Tax Assessor is Republican Brian Wilson. Last October, Wilson was reelected to a fifth term.