Jan 10, 2023 - News

D.C.'s mayor has a "comeback plan" to boost the city's population

D.C. population
Data: U.S. Census Bureau and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

In the heyday of 2010s boomtown D.C., it was projected that the city would hit 1 million residents by 2045.

Reality check: Those days of rapid growth are long gone. The District’s population rise was already slowing before the pandemic made it worse.

Driving the news: Mayor Muriel Bowser released a five-year “comeback plan" Monday, seeking to revive that decade of growth. The plan includes incentives for converting offices into apartments and creating more jobs.

The overall goal: Hang on to D.C.’s current 671,000 residents and grow the city's population to 725,000 by 2028.

  • Ideas include tinkering with the federal Height Act — not a simple feat that will require federal sign-off. The law typically caps buildings to about 130 feet, and increasing it to 160 feet “warrants further discussion,” said John Falcicchio, deputy mayor for planning.
  • Bowser wants to build 9,400 new homes downtown for 15,000 residents by 2028.

Flashback: D.C.’s 15% growth from 2010 to 2020 brought the city to nearly 690,000 residents, sprouting bustling corridors and prosperity that allowed City Hall to fund new public amenities.

  • The changes also spurred gentrification that shrunk the city's Black population and triggered an affordable housing crisis.

The city's growth has slowed dramatically in recent years. In 2021, D.C. lost 20,000 residents, which the District believes was due to a desire for more affordable and better housing.

What they’re saying: “We’re in a very complicated place in the history of Washington,” Mayor Bowser said during a news conference Monday.

  • She said saving downtown as the “economic engine of our city” is crucial to funding schools, transportation, social services, and public safety.
  • Downtown office and commercial vacancies have remained high as many employers embrace remote work.

Details: The plans include measures to shore up equity:

  • Growing the percentage of minority-owned businesses from 27% to 33%.
  • Ensuring all residents of wards seven and eight live within one mile of a grocery store.
  • Expanding internet access.
  • Increasing the annual median Black household income to $74,000.
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