The group that represents small landlords
and their rights in Massachusetts.

We are the group of small landlords who began in 1987 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, under a stringent rent control system begun 18 years earlier in 1969. We asked for reforms and got none. Then we sponsored a statewide referendum in 1994 — and won! — ending 25 years of rent control in Massachusetts by popular vote. It ended in Boston and Brookline as well as Cambridge.

Who are “small property owners”? We are small landlords, “mom and pop” landlords, who do our own management and repairs without offices and hired personnel. We are the families who own and operate 75% of America’s rental housing.

We may hire carpenters, plumbers, and electricians on occasion, but we do all the rest ourselves, which allows us to keep our rents lower.

We often refer to ourselves as ‘SPOA,’ pronounced ‘SPO-uh.’ We do not spell out our initials. Almost everybody knows us by this one-word name.

Brief History

SPOA began as the well-known group of small landlords in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who fought to outlaw rent control in Massachusetts.

Starting with a dozen members in 1987, we grew fast under an extremely oppressive rent control system. In 1994, SPOA launched a statewide ballot referendum known as “Question 9.” The entire state had heard horror stories of grave harm to small landlords and of all the well-off tenants living in rent-controlled units. The vote was close, but the entire state voted to end rent control.

That huge victory, the first time in the nation that rent control was ever voted out, made us a major statewide organization, and we have grown ever since.

SPOA has successfully stopped all subsequent efforts to bring rent control back, primarily in Boston and Cambridge.

In 2003, Cambridge voters DEFEATED a rent control proposal in a citywide referendum. SPOA’s vigorous campaign convinced a landslide 61% of Cambridge residents to vote NO. The very city that once believed fervently in rent control, was convinced by SPOA that rent control would harm the city and all its residential owners in one way or another. Rent control also did not help tenants, as the neediest were steadily pushed out when well-off tenants monopolized their cheap digs. Meanwhile, the rent-controlled stock was steadily deteriorating under very low rents.