A large and growing body of research shows that neighborhoods matter for several life outcomes including economic mobility, education, and safety. For many reasons, positive neighborhood attributes remain unattainable for low-income households in many U.S. metropolitan areas. Professor Lens’ work fulfills gaps in the literature that evaluates the potential for housing policy to reduce this separation by focusing on neighborhood safety and access to jobs. This research contributes to this literature in both conceptual and empirical ways. Specifically, this research 1) measures the neighborhood conditions of families that receive housing subsidies; 2) analyzes the potential interactions of crime with subsidized housing and commercial development; 3) identifies how residential location affects employment outcomes; and 4) improves how scholars and policy makers measure neighborhood opportunity for low-income households.
In recent research, Professor Lens is studying the effect of the housing bust on housing subsidy demand and local government finances, the role of public investments in gentrification processes, and the spatial concentration of eviction. Professor Lens’ research has won awards from the Journal of the American Planning Association and Housing Policy Debate.
Among several grants, Professor Lens has – along with fellow UCLA Urban Planning Professor Paavo Monkkonen – a multiyear grant from the MacArthur Foundation to study the effect of the housing boom and bust on local government finances.
Professor Lens teaches courses on Quantitative Analysis, Community-Based Research, Housing Markets and Policy, Poverty and Inequality, and Research Methods.