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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 9460588

Cambridge Tenants' Union records

Contains materials related to the creation of Cambridge Tenants' Union and the organization's involvement in promoting rent control and other housing issues in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dates

  • 1967 - 1999

Conditions Governing Access

All restrictions are noted in the container list below. Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Historical and Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical and Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Extent

1 collection (13.3 linear feet in; 32 boxes and 3 oversized boxes)

The Cambridge Tenant's Union (CTU) Records cover the entirety of the organization's period as an active group in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1986 – 1999. There are also documents from the group’s predecessor, the Cambridge Rent Control Coalition, dating back to 1967. The bulk of this collection is organizational records and materials related to the Cambridge Tenants' Union's political and legal activism. Also included are studies and reports, involvement with other groups, and press coverage of relevant issues. The majority of the collection is textual, comprising of correspondence, logs, petitions, flyers, publications, questionnaires, pamphlets, studies, clippings, newspapers, and related printed matter. Other formats present are a small number of items such as buttons, postcards, and cassette tapes. TEST

Historical Information

  • 1970Massachusetts state law passes authorizing any city or town with a population of 50,000 people or more to enact rent controls on local properties. Cambridge establishes laws under which over a third of residential properties are subject to rent controls.
  • 1982Cambridge Rent Control Coalition forms as an umbrella organization for pro-rent control groups
  • 1986Cambridge Tenants’ Union forms as a successor to the Cambridge Rent Control Coalition with more of a focus on addressing individual rent-control cases, promoting tenant activism, and championing rent control issues
  • 1989Proposition 1-2-3, which would remove units from the rent control market by allowing property owners to sell them to long-time tenants, is defeated 2-to-1
  • November 1994 Question 9, a referendum to ban rent control by January 1, 1995, passes by a narrow margin of 51-to-49 percent
  • December 1994The Cambridge City Council passes a last-minute "compromise bill" to extend decontrol of most units until July 31, 1995 while allowing for properties with elderly or poverty-stricken residents to remain under rent control for another 5 years. The petition goes on to pass both the Massachusetts House and Senate.
  • December 1994The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court approves the omission of summaries for ballot questions in the November election, an issue that supporters of rent control had been suing to invalidate the election over on the grounds that people did not understand what they were voting for
  • January 1995Governor Weld signs a law superseding the still-contested Question 9 that immediately decontrolled all units other than a few occupied by "protected tenants" earning below a certain income level; these units were allowed to remain under rent control for one or two years longer depending on the number of controlled units in the building.
1970
Massachusetts state law passes authorizing any city or town with a population of 50,000 people or more to enact rent controls on local properties. Cambridge establishes laws under which over a third of residential properties are subject to rent controls.
1982
Cambridge Rent Control Coalition forms as an umbrella organization for pro-rent control groups
1986
Cambridge Tenants’ Union forms as a successor to the Cambridge Rent Control Coalition with more of a focus on addressing individual rent-control cases, promoting tenant activism, and championing rent control issues
1989
Proposition 1-2-3, which would remove units from the rent control market by allowing property owners to sell them to long-time tenants, is defeated 2-to-1
November 1994
Question 9, a referendum to ban rent control by January 1, 1995, passes by a narrow margin of 51-to-49 percent
December 1994
The Cambridge City Council passes a last-minute "compromise bill" to extend decontrol of most units until July 31, 1995 while allowing for properties with elderly or poverty-stricken residents to remain under rent control for another 5 years. The petition goes on to pass both the Massachusetts House and Senate.
December 1994
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court approves the omission of summaries for ballot questions in the November election, an issue that supporters of rent control had been suing to invalidate the election over on the grounds that people did not understand what they were voting for
January 1995
Governor Weld signs a law superseding the still-contested Question 9 that immediately decontrolled all units other than a few occupied by "protected tenants" earning below a certain income level; these units were allowed to remain under rent control for one or two years longer depending on the number of controlled units in the building.

Series List/Description

  1. Series I. Organization, 1967-1998 1967-1998
  2. ___ Subseries A. Historical, 1976-19861976-1986The Historical subseries covers the Cambridge RentControl Coalition and its transition into the Cambridge TenantsUnion. Materials include by-laws, meeting agendas and minutes,communications, and phone logs. Items are organizedchronologically.
  3. ___Subseries B. Administrative, 1967-19981967-1998TheAdministrative subseries covers the bureaucratic components of theCambridge Tenants Union. Materials include fundraising documents,expense books, phone logs, meeting agendas and minutes, and theElizabeth Van Ranst papers. Items are ordered chronologically exceptfor the Van Ranst papers, which are in originalorder.
  4. ___Subseries C. Outreach, 1987-19961987-1996The Outreach subseriescovers community outreach by the Cambridge Tenants Union. Materialsinclude membership documents, correspondence, distribution lists,flyers, and cassette tapes. Items are orderedchronologically.
  5. Series II. Activism, 1973-1998 1973-1998
  6. ___Subseries A. Legal, 1973-19951973-1995The Legal subseriescovers legal disputes and cases over issues and specific propertiesinvolving tenants, landlords, or the Cambridge Rent Control Board.Materials include court documents, affidavits, correspondence, tenantcomplaints, and petitions. Items are organizedchronologically.
  7. ___Subseries B. Political, 1980-19981980-1998The Politicalsubseries covers various elections, support for pro-rent controlcandidates, relations with the Cambridge City Council, opposition toProposition 1-2-3 and Question 9, and involvement with the annualGeneral Adjustment. Materials include correspondence, candidateadvertisements, questionnaires, election results, recommendations,proposals, and memos. Items are organizedchronologically.
  8. Series III. Rent Control, 1971-1998 1971-1998
  9. ___Subseries A. Reports and Studies 1971-19981971-1998The Reportsand Studies subseries contains published materials on rent controland other housing issues. Materials include reports, studies,surveys, booklets, and pamphlets. Items are organizedalphabetically.
  10. ___Subseries B. Other Rent Control GroupsThe Other Rent Control Groups subseries contains materials fromlocal rent control groups other than the CTU. Materials includecorrespondence, flyers, and newsletters. Items are organizedalphabetically.
  11. Series IV. Press, 1980-1999 1980-1999
  12. ___Subseries A. News Clippings, 1980-19991980-1999The News Clippings subseries contains coverage of rent control andother housing issues by papers such as the Boston Globe, Cambridge Tab, and Harvard Crimson . Materials include newspaper clippings and photocopies ofarticles. Items are organized chronologically.
  13. ___Subseries B. Newspapers, 1981-19981981-1998The Newspapers subseries contains news coverage of rent controland other housing issues by papers such as the Boston Globe, Cambridge Tab, and Harvard Crimson . Materials include oversized newspapers. Items are organizedchronologically.
  14. ___Subseries C. Rent Control Publications, 1987-19931987-1993The Rent Control Publications subseries contains issues ofpro-rent control papers such as the Tenant Independent and Massachusetts Tenant .Materials include oversized newspapers. Items are organizedchronologically.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Harvard Law School Library by Michael Turk in 2004.

Processing Information

A survey of the collection revealed little in the way of original order or record groups. At some point prior to processing materials were grouped together in folders by Law Library staff. In the absence of a usable original order, the arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing with contents being placed into constructed series and grouped into subseries. Therefore, folders and to a limited extent single documents were reorganized to create the final arrangement. Two exceptions to this were: 1) Original order was preserved to the extent that all naturally occurring labeled folders were kept intact and 2) the papers of Cambridge Tenants' Union Treasurer Elizabeth Van Ranst remained together. Select original folders in which the label does not appear to match the contents have been noted. Extraneous copies (more than two) of documents were removed.
Relevant acronyms
  1. CRCB:Cambridge Rent Control Board
  2. CRCC: Cambridge Rent ControlCoalition
  3. CTOC: Cambridge Tenants Organization
  4. CTU: Cambridge Tenants' Union
  5. MTO: MassachusettsTenants Organization
  6. SPOA: Small Property OwnersAssociation
Link to catalog
Title
Cambridge Tenants' Union. Records, 1967-1999: Finding Aid.
Author
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
EAD ID
law00280

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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