Are Rent Laws Worth It?

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An audience member read "Tenant" during the hearing.

The 2015 legislative session is set to end Wednesday and lawmakers in Albany are still far apart on proposals to renew rent protections for more than 2 million tenants in and around New York City. Rent regulations, which have been around since World War II, were allowed to expire Monday and they're expected to be renewed eventually. But what would happen if they weren't?

"Rent control at the moment causes some people to consume too much housing," said Christopher Mayer, a professor of real estate at the Columbia University Business School. "These old stories of widows who are living in four-bedroom apartments. But more generally people don't move out of places they would otherwise move out of if market forces were in play."

This leads to a supply and demand problem that raises the prices of market-rate apartments, Mayer said. 

Though he's skeptical of the ability of rent laws to solve the affordability problem, Mayer said allowing the rent laws to expire would cause chaos.

"While I think we ought to modify and eventually and get rid of rent control as it exists today, I don't think this is the way to do it," Mayer said.

Only San Francisco and Berkeley in California still have rent regulations.