Neeraj Mehta is director of community programs at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Posts By This Author

Who Deserves Affordable Housing?

by Neeraj Mehta 04-25-2017
According to current U.S. policies, white wealthy homeowners deserve government support on housing. Low-income renters of color? Not so much.

I remember the first day of my housing-policy class in graduate school. I was late. I had just left the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority where I was helping a family activate the housing-choice voucher they had recently been granted.

I found a seat near the door in the back of the classroom. After welcoming us, the professor opened with what seemed like a simple request: “Raise your hand if you have ever lived in subsidized housing.” In a class of about 40 students, only three or four hands went up. I kept mine down.

He followed with a second question: “How many of you have lived in a house either you or your parents owned?” I raised my hand—along with a majority of my classmates. “Congratulations,” he responded. “You too have lived in subsidized housing.”

He used the rest of class to describe the two major types of housing assistance offered by the U.S. government.

The first type is public housing and housing-choice vouchers that limit what a household pays for rent to 30 percent of their income. This is what most of us think of when we hear the phrase “subsidized housing.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development runs these programs, which are meant to benefit mainly households that earn 30 percent or less of median income for an area. This might be $12,750 for a family of four in Mississippi or $27,600 in California. Congress allots about $38 billion per year for these programs.

The second form of government-funded financial assistance for housing is the mortgage-interest tax deduction, which allows homeowners who itemize deductions to deduct the interest they pay on their home loans. The deduction can be applied to both primary and second residences, including boats with bathrooms. Most households that benefit from the mortgage-interest tax deduction earn between $100,000 and $500,000 a year. This, the largest housing subsidy program in the country, costs the federal government upward of $100 billion a year.

Our Response to Poverty in the Light of Easter

by Neeraj Mehta 03-31-2010
Why are people poor? Why do they stay poor? What would it take to get them out of poverty? These are major questions that have been heavily debated for a century in our country.

Maladjusted to Injustice

by Neeraj Mehta 01-25-2010
Last week my wife and I had the grand opportunity to leave our two kids in the care of her parents and spend five days on vacation in California.

Drowning in a Rising Tide

by Neeraj Mehta 12-14-2009

One Nation, Underprivileged: Analyzing the Game Instead of the Players

by Neeraj Mehta 09-14-2009
If life were a game, it could be said that we like to analyze the players (the winners and the losers) of the game, rather than the game itself.

Poverty: Looking at Why Instead of Who

by Neeraj Mehta 09-10-2009
For many Americans, our current housing crisis, banking meltdown, and global recession are increasing the risk of falling into poverty.

Crux of the Health-Care Debate: The Role of Government

by Neeraj Mehta 08-25-2009
I'm not sure I completely understand the health-care debate. But I'm going to take a shot and put down my thoughts and would love additional education, feedback, and thoughts as well.

Eat That

by Neeraj Mehta 08-17-2009
I went to the grocery store at midnight the other night.

Is it just me or are the lights at the grocery story brighter at midnight?

Why Are People Poor?

by Neeraj Mehta 06-24-2009
Why are people poor? I remember being asked this question 10 years ago while training for a program I was volunteering with.

Jeremiah's Change of Heart

by Neeraj Mehta 06-02-2009
Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem at the time when the Babylonians were laying siege to the city.

Equitable Neighborhood Revitalization

by Neeraj Mehta 05-26-2009
A standard definition of community development often goes something like this:

Proximity: Relocation Doesn't Equal Relationship

by Neeraj Mehta 05-20-2009
One of the principles of the Christian community development movement is "relocation." While the principle has depth to it, more times then not it is lived out as people who choose to move their p