News & Politics

DC Is Third-Fastest Growing “State,” According to Census

Photograph via iStock.

The District’s population grew 1.9 percent to 672,228 in 2015, according to figures published Tuesday by the US Census Bureau. The growth rate was faster than those in all but two states—North Dakota and Colorado—and puts DC on track to top its historic peak population of 802,000 within 20 years.

The Census report also reveals that the District is once again adding more than 1,000 new residents per month. Over the 12 months ending July 1, the District gained 12,392 new residents over its 2014 population, which was revised upward to 659,836. The neighboring states recorded smaller gains, with Maryland’s population climbing 0.5 percent to 6,006,401, and Virginia’s growing 0.7 percent to 8,382,993.

As for its standing compared to jurisidictions with fully fledged congressional delegations, DC’s population remains ahead of Vermont’s and Wyoming’s, and is about 66,000 shy of overtaking Alaska.

Via US Census Bureau

The District’s population also grew across all categories measured by the Census, a fact Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office touts in a press release. Along with a natural increase—births minus deaths—of 4,375 over the one-year period, DC had a net migration of 8,282 new residents, with international migration outpacing people arriving from other states by about 840 people.

DC’s population peaked at 802,000 in 1950. After several decades of decline, it started climbing again after the start of the 21st century. The population figure released today is more than 70,000 above the 2010 Census and about 100,000 above the 2000 Census. If the city is indeed closing in on its historic high, it will need to take extensive steps to make sure its building stock can accommodate all the newcomers.

“We have been planning with this growth in mind,” DC Planning Director Eric Shaw says in the mayor’s press release.

One of Shaw’s predecessors, Harriet Tregoning, developed a plan in 2013 to rewrite the Height Act—the century-old law that limits how tall DC’s buildings can go—with this expected growth in mind. Tregoning’s plan projected the District will need as much as 317 million square feet of new developed space as its population pushes toward 900,000, as it is expected to by 2040. The plan was dismissed out-of-hand by Height Act supporters.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.