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Throughout its two centuries of existence, Washington’s population surges have coincided with significant expansions of the federal government, particularly during times of war. Until 1950, the city contended primarily with the problems of growth, providing sufficient housing, transportation, schools, and municipal services such as water, sewers, and utilities to an expanding number of residents.

After 1950, when the District’s population peaked, the city faced the dilemma of population contraction. Outward migration, particularly of the affluent and middle class, created a poorer, increasingly segregated city. Many businesses and government agencies also departed for the suburbs, resulting in empty storefronts and dilapidated neighborhoods.

As the National Capital Region continues to grow, the city’s population has stabilized, and perhaps even begun to rebound. The problems of facilitating and managing growth are increasingly regional in nature, requiring coordination among many municipal, federal, and regional authorities. Planning for the nation’s capital demands a broader perspective than ever before, one that continues to balance the needs of the area’s residents with the federal interest in maintaining a capital city worthy of the nation.