If a senator is working, then you can expect them to be in Washington DC.
The nation’s capital is in Washington, DC, and that includes the Capitol building where the senators meet.
Because their offices are in DC, you may think that that’s also where they live.
The United States has 50 senators which represent the needs and desires of their constituents from their states.
However, a lot of other people live in the area to help run the government.
Washington, DC is a large city that provides living arrangements for everyone.
Here’s what you need to know about where senators live.
Where Do Senators Live?
Back in the 19th century, senators lived in boarding houses scattered around the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
When a new senator arrived in DC, they selected the boarding house in which they wanted to live.
The size and distance to the capital reflected the particular person’s position and status in Congress.
For example, those who served a long time in their respective positions tended to have the nicest and largest homes.
Newcomers tended to have homes that were the furthest from the capital.
That changed in 1995 when Newt Gingrich, a Republican, shortened the workweek for Congress from five days to three days.
He did so to get his fellow Congressmen outside and fundraise for the party.
Senators no longer found themselves needing to stay in the area for as long.
This meant they were able to live outside of the DC area if they wished to.
That said, senators still need a place to sleep while they’re on the job.
Here are a few places where senators live while they’re working.
Interestingly enough, some senators actually choose to sleep in their offices while they’re in the area.
Paul Ryan and Dick Armey both have admitted that they sleep in their offices while they’re in the area.
They simply sleep on the couch or bring an inflatable mattress.
Once their three-day workweek is over, they jump on a plane or take a car to their permanent residence.
Those who do sleep in their offices do so because they believe it helps them focus on their work.
They’re able to stay away from the other distractions of Washington.
There has been some pushback against senators who sleep in their offices, however.
Some say that they’re basically using taxpayer money to live rent-free when others have to pay extremely high rental prices in the area.
Those who sleep in their offices usually travel the most between the capital and the state that they represent.
2. Group Homes
Some senators also share a house.
These homes are reminiscent of the boarding homes that senators used in the 1800s.
Some examples of senators who use this style of home are Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.
The two also shared a home with Representative George Miller when he was in office.
Senators who live in group homes each have their own home within a larger home.
They’re able to hang out together but also have their own private areas where they can relax.
Some senators enjoy using group homes because, for one, it’s cheaper.
They’re able to share the rent with the other senators.
They also enjoy it because it allows them to talk with other senators living in different states.
In a time when the two political parties worked together, group homes were often the place where democrats and republicans could convene and discuss deals.
At the very least, it was a place where they could make connections.
The same is true today albeit the connections are within one’s own party.
Another popular place that senators live is in apartments.
Apartments are popular for a few different reasons.
Some senators are able to take on roommates which can help ease the cost of the rent.
In Washington DC, rental prices are extremely high.
The average rental price in the city is $2,261 for a 745 square-foot apartment.
That’s pretty tiny, especially for a senator who needs space to relax and work.
To afford the bigger apartments, some senators who enjoy one another’s company will become roommates.
Another reason some senators prefer to live in apartments around Washington DC is that they’re able to lease the room annually.
Some apartment complexes might even offer monthly leases to senators.
This is ideal because senators don’t always know for sure if they’re going to be working in DC the following year.
If their state doesn’t vote for them, then they likely don’t want to live in DC while they’re not earning money.
It’d be a waste of their income to rent a room that they’re not using or to buy a home that they’re not going to be in.
Senators live in apartments because they’re ideal for their particular type of lifestyle.
4. Permanent Homes
Some senators also choose to buy a home in the DC area.
Josh Hawley is a senator who bought a home in DC
Representative Jodey Arrington also bought a home in DC
Senators buy homes because they know that they want to live in DC regardless of their employment status.
The area has some great schools, and its history is second to none.
Those who want to raise a family there will likely buy a home rather than live in an apartment.
They likely prefer space to spread out and want to give their kids a yard to play in and expend their energy.
That said, buying a home isn’t always a wise idea.
If a senator buys a home and then finds themselves no longer a senator the following year, then they might be living in a home without a senator’s income.
They may need to move out of the house which can be a nightmare.
It’s also worth noting that senators who live outside of Washington DC, like those who represent Virginia or West Virginia, also likely have permanent homes.
These senators commute from their permanent homes to the Capitol.
5. Homes Outside Of Washington, DC
While some senators may live in the city, others actually have permanent homes outside of DC.
For example, most will have homes in the state that they represent.
They may only rent an apartment or sleep in their offices while they’re working.
When the workweek is over, they’ll take a car or a plane back to their state.
Their true home is in their state.
Thanks to planes and private jets, senators are more mobile than ever.
They can easily leave the capital and return to their permanent homes in their home state in a matter of hours.
This allows them to raise their families in their preferred state, too.
Senators who don’t want to pay the high costs of owning a home or permanently renting an apartment in DC might choose to have a house in their original state.
Those who know that they likely won’t represent their state forever might also choose to put down roots outside of DC, too.
Since senators only work for three days, they’re able to spend most of their time in their home states with their family and friends.
6. House Boats
One of the most famous rivers in American history runs around Washington DC.
The Potomac River has recreational, industrial, and residential purposes.
In particular, some senators use it as a place to live.
Senator Joe Manchin, for example, has a houseboat that he parks on the river.
He lives there while he serves as a senator.
In fact, when some Democrats wanted to protest against some of the decisions that Manchin had made, they actually took kayaks on the river to reach his home.
This isn’t the most common place where senators live in DC, but it is clearly a possibility.
What Influences A Senator’s Decision Of Where To Live?
When a new senator comes to Washington DC, they’ll have to decide where they want to live.
Will they rent an apartment or buy a house?
There are a few factors that influence a senator’s decision of where to live.
Here are some of those factors.
1. Cost Of Living
One of the biggest deciding factors is the cost of living.
Washington DC is an expensive place to live, and it’s only becoming more expensive.
Some senators either cannot or do not want to pay the expensive prices of a home and all its related costs.
This is especially true if they’re unsure if they’re going to remain in DC for an extended amount of time.
It isn’t just rental and housing expenses that they have to deal with either.
Everything is more expensive in Washington, DC.
From the food to the gas, people in DC pay a lot of money to live there.
That cuts into their income, which can determine how much they’re able to spend on campaigns in the future.
These prices don’t just affect them, either, but also the members of their family if they choose to live there.
They’ll need to support their family in a wildly expensive place.
Some senators may try to save on costs in the long-term by renting an apartment.
Others may choose to stay in their offices and fly home out of state when the workweek is over.
Depending on their own frugality and concern over the cost of living, senators will choose a place to live that best supports their particular budget.
2. Seat Competition
The threat to their position as a senator can also influence where they choose to live.
Senators who represent states that see a lot of back-and-forth between red and blue representation are more likely to stay in their home state.
That’s because they need to keep close to their roots and continue to campaign and fundraise for themselves.
If all their time is spent in DC, then they’re not speaking to their constituents about the work they’re doing or the work that they have done.
This allows their competitors to tear into them.
While the senator is in DC, their competition is telling their constituents about the mistakes that they’re making or talking about the changes that they want to make.
If the senator is in a precarious position, then they’re more likely to have a home in their home state to offset their competitor’s influence.
Since they only work three days a week in the capital, they’re able to spend the rest of their time campaigning and solidifying support.
Those who live in DC are less able to visit their home state to speak with their constituents.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, senators who don’t have much competition in their states may feel confident enough to stay in DC.
For example, if the state tends to vote primarily Republican or Democrat, then they may feel safe about not having to campaign as much.
Older senators usually fall into this category.
Once they’ve proven themselves to their constituents and gained their trust, they know that the constituents are more likely to continue to vote for them.
That’s because voters prefer to vote for people who have proven themselves time and again rather than to risk their vote on someone new who they don’t know or hasn’t proven themselves in Congress yet.
Older senators and senators from deep blue and deep red states are more likely to stay in DC because they don’t need to campaign as often at home.
Some senators also simply have a preference.
Some may not want their voters to see them as DC politicians who are more interested in their party than their constituents.
These senators may prefer to live in their home state.
Others may want to give their family stability.
They prefer to live in DC because it means they’re home every day.
They can spend time with their spouses and children.
There isn’t any risk of missing out on birthday parties or attending school events.
Others may also have a preference for living in a home over an apartment.
Because homes in DC are expensive, then they might prefer to live outside of DC to be able to afford a home.
Depending on the senator’s personal preference, they might choose to live outside of DC or in the city in a home or apartment.
How A Senator’s Living Situation Affects Political Parties
At first, you might think that a senator’s choice of living arrangements doesn’t matter.
However, one might notice that the rise in polarization between the two political parties has also run alongside the trend of senators and representatives living outside of DC
Here are a few ways that choosing to live outside of the capital might be influencing polarization.
1. Little Socialization
Back in the day, senators had to work together and live together.
Since they worked five days a week, they were like many other workers in the United States.
They had a little bit of time at the end of each day to relax and take care of personal errands.
The majority of their time off came on the weekend.
This encouraged senators to remain in the capital city.
This means it was only inevitable before they ran into someone in the opposing party.
No one wants to live in a hostile area.
To prevent the neighborhood from becoming an unpleasant place, senators had to be kind to one another.
At the very least, they had to know how to speak to one another and look for common ground between them.
This sort of forced interaction meant that they saw each other as peers and not just as rivals.
As peers, they can respect one another.
That respect then gives them the ability to speak with one another and make deals on important issues.
Living away from DC has contributed to party polarization because senators are no longer forced to live with one another, or next to each other, which deprives them of the opportunity to establish common ground.
2. Fewer Opportunities For Meetings
Another reason that living outside of DC has contributed to party polarization is that it means there are fewer opportunities for both sides to meet outside of work.
As soon as the workweek is over for senators, they tend to head home as quickly as they can.
The same is true for anyone who works.
You want to leave and get home as fast as possible.
This becomes a problem, however, because that means there are fewer opportunities for senators to meet outside of work and discuss issues.
They’re reliant on email or phone calls.
It’s easy to say you’re unavailable or not around when someone is waiting to call you or email you.
It’s not as easy if you only live a few blocks down from them.
Having meetings away from work helps establish compromises between the two parties.
It helps them work together and make some useful changes for the American people.
With more senators living outside of DC, the opportunity to make those types of meetings and have those discussions lessens.
Senators live both in the DC area and outside of it.
Some even live in the state they represent.
Those who live in the DC area either own their homes or rent an apartment.
Some even end up sleeping in their offices in the capitol building.
Because of the trend in senators living outside of the capital, fewer opportunities are available for both parties to recognize one another as peers and work together for the common good.