In the November 8, 1994, state election, Massachusetts voters approved a question placed on the ballot by initiative petition passing a law that effectively outlawed rent control throughout the commonwealth. This law had its most dramatic effect in Cambridge, where a stringent rent control system had been in effect since 1970. The success of the petition was realized primarily through the grassroots efforts of a coalition of small-property owners in Cambridge who felt aggrieved by the city's rent control system. The use of a statewide vote on an initiative petition to enact a law with predominantly local effect created for its proponents a variety of legal and political problems. These were overcome one by one through lawsuits and volunteer efforts in which failure was repeatedly averted by slender margins. This article is a detailed account of that process.



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