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Strategic Marketing Case Studies

Municipal Affairs

Problem: A failed residential rent control scheme and the law of unintended consequences combined to decimate the housing stock and tax base of suburban Brookline, Massachusetts. Collateral damage included unrealized losses in property values running into the hundreds of millions and thousands of residential property owners subject to enormous fines for the "crime" of occupying their own homes.

Challenge: An enormous tenant constituency enjoyed an unqualified lifetime sinecure in the form of permanent occupancy rights. Supported by a substantial cohort of homeowners intent on maintaining the status quo and a jaded and disengaged constituency of inactive residents, commercial and residential property owners began to organize to return Brookline to a more equitable state of affairs.

Action: On behalf of an organizing committee of residents, we participated in the formation of a non-partisan civic association that remains active in a variety of local government issues to this day. We also organized and led a broad-based association of condominium owners on whose behalf we developed a legislative agenda and published a regular newsletter.

Part of our efforts included the analysis and databasing of residents in over 10,000 multi-family housing units, part of a membership development strategy on behalf of the previously referenced Condominium Association of Brookline (CAB). At its height, CAB membership included over 100 condominium and cooperative housing associations representing upwards of four thousand units.

Concurrently we participated in a number of municipal electoral campaigns, successfully promoting numerous candidates for town meeting and other local offices.

Result: In mounting an electoral and legislative challenge to the established order, we were able to mount what at the time was the first successful challenge to rent control in recent US history. Full rights of ownership and use were restored to thousands of Brookline property owners, including scores of small property owners for whom income derived from two and three family units was a substantial source of income.

An estimated $1 billion dollars in real estate was returned to the tax roles at full value, yielding millions of dollars in sorely-need revenues to municipal coffers. Further, property whose sales value was long compromised by onerous ownership restrictions was disencumbered, resulting in substantial potential gains for property owners.

Property and condominium owners from other municipalities, most notably Cambridge, closely observed our actions and requested briefings on our strategic perspective, which we were more than glad to supply. Subsequently, rent control was overthrown at the state level, ridding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and all of its approximately 365 cities and towns of rent control. All subsequent attempts to reverse this victory have failed.

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