The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Dr Cassidy Johnson

Dr Cassidy Johnson

Associate Professor

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
27th Sep 2006

Research summary

I am very fortunate these days to be engaged in three exciting research projects:

Co-Investigator on Urban Africa Risk Knowledge—Urban ARK. This is a three-year research and capacity building programme of £3.3 million funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2015-2018). The work seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for risk management in urban sub-Saharan Africa through building a community of practice including sub-Saharan, African and international researchers and practitioners that can provide a structured assessment of risk to women, men and children in a diverse range of urban contexts, and a detailed understanding of underlying factors driving risk accumulation including how the nature and scale of these risks are changing in the context of urban growth and change, poverty and climate change. The project is lead by Prof. Mark Pelling at King’s College, with partners at University of Ibadan (Nigeria), African Population Health Research Centre (Kenya), African Centre for Cities (South Africa), Mzuzu University (Malawi), International Institute of Environment and Development (UK), ARUP (UK) with international organisations Save the Children, International Alert, and UN-Habitat. The project is working in more than seven urban areas across Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Senegal and Niger and other countries. http://www.urbanark.org/

Co-lead on Reducing Relocation Risks, funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). This project is in partnership with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and the Latin American Social Science Faculty (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO). It examines the social and economic implications of climate-risk related resettlement and relocation policies in cities in India, Uganda, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. It seeks to understand the political, economic and institutional contexts in which resettlement takes place; the costs and benefits of resettlement from both the government and individual’s perspective; and how resettlement impacts people’s well-being and resilience over different time frames. https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/reducing-relocation-risk

AXA Outlook grantee, Metrics for Policy Action in Urban Areas: Characterizing Risks Facing Low-income Groups. I am collaborating with practitioners, researchers and policy-makers in Tanzania and internationally to bring into policy debate how to collect data and measure environmental risks. At least a third of the population in cities of the Global South lives in informal settlements lacking basic water, sanitation infrastructure, and threatened by environmental hazards. This research seeks to enable local decision-makers make informed planning decisions for risk reduction in Tanzania and other emerging countries. https://www.axa-research.org/en/projects/cassidy-johnson

I have worked on other interesting projects:

•    Adaptation to Climate Change in Cities  http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/adaptation_to_climate_change_in_cities

•    How People Face Evictions  https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/publications/dpu-book-15

•    i-Rec information and research for reconstruction http://www.grif.umontreal.ca/i-Rec.htm

•    Future proofing Indian cities http://cdkn.org/project/future-proofing-indian-cities/?loclang=en_gb

Teaching summary

I am currently Acting Director of Studies for The Bartlett Development Planning Unit.

I am supervise PhD students on the topics ranging from municipal disaster risk management, post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, to urban environmental risk and health.


Columbia University
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Fellowship | 2007
University de Montreal
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2007
McGill University
Other higher degree, Master of Architecture | 2002
Concordia University, Montreal
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1999


Cassidy Johnson is an Associate Professor at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, where she researches and teaches about disaster risk, post-disaster recovery and climate change adaptation. Hailing from Canada, she has been been at UCL since 2006.

My academic interests are linked by a commitment to improve the quality of life and livelihoods of low-income groups living in urban areas. My research contributes to the area of disaster risk reduction and recovery and to the role of local governments and civil society in this – and to integrating an understanding of disaster-risk into development. This has encompassed issues of urban planning, housing quality, building code regulations, informal settlements (and upgrading) and evictions. My work engages internationally with policy makers as well as with local communities and I have worked in more than ten countries across Asia and Africa, including Turkey, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi. 

My PhD was about post-disaster temporary housing - particularly looking at housing recovery in Turkey. With my students, I have looked at urban rehabilitation and Roma communities in Sulukule, Istanbul and at how people and communities resist against forced evictions. I have also worked with Natural Resources Canada on the use of solar energy in cities. I am currently engaged in three research projects on disaster risks and urbanisation, which are described in more detail in the “research” section below. 

For the last ten years, I have been publishing in leading journals on urban development, housing and disasters. I have one edited book and chapters in several commercially published books. I work to get the findings from this work and their implications for policy and practice widely disseminated - as in my role of one of the authors of the 2010 World Disaster Report and currently as co-lead of the Urban Planning Advisory Group to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). A co-authored paper on Dhaka, Bangladesh on “Built-in resilience” published in 2010 has been drawn on in the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  In 2015, I hosted the i-Rec Research and Information for Reconstruction Conference at UCL—a bi-annual gathering of a social network of practitioners in post-disaster reconstruction. I was a founding member of this group when I was a PhD student in the IF Research Group at Université de Montréal. I support UCL’s Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction, sitting on its board and research committee. In 2014, I was awarded an Outlook fellowship from the AXA Insurance Research Fund to look at the interface between science and policy making on the topic of urban resilience.

In gaining a background in urban studies, architecture and environmental studies, I acheived a BA in Urban Studies, Concordia University and M.Arch in Minimum Cost Housing, McGill University and PhD in Aménagement (Built Environment), Université de Montréal. I was post-Doctoral Fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

I teach MSc module Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities (BENVGBU6), supervise MSc dissertations and currently supervise several highly committed PhD students whose topics relate to disaster risk, reconstruction, recovery and climate change adaptation.