100 Resilient Cities

Washington, DC

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Population growth, climate change, and digitization combined with inequality and persistent social challenges threaten the success of any city.

If we become more resilient then we can strengthen our collective capacity to thrive in the face of change. Building our city’s resilience is about addressing everyday disasters, like poverty and inequality, so that we can bounce back quicker from catastrophic events, like floods and infrastructure failure. This approach ensures that we’re stronger and better prepared for a disaster. It also provides benefits on an everyday basis. This strategy provides a roadmap for building greater resilience in Washington, DC. It is the result of a nearly two-year process of shared discovery that resulted in a deeper, cross-sector understanding of some of DC’s most important challenges. In total, more than 100 community leaders and subject matter experts contributed, in addition to the 1,100 residents, from all eight wards, who shared their ideas for building resilience.

The Strategy is organized around three main drivers of change: economic and population growth; climate change; and technological transformation. It also includes a chapter focused on individual resilience, acknowledging that we can only become a more resilient city by addressing longstanding challenges related to health and safety.

01 Inclusive Growth A DC where all residents benefit from our continued economic and population growth, whether they have been here for five minutes or five generations.

02 Climate Action A DC that is prepared for the impacts of climate change and where residents and businesses take bold action to combat its causes.

03 Smarter DC A DC that embraces advancements in technology, while minimizing the negative consequences of change.

04 Safe and Healthy Washingtonians A DC where every neighborhood is safe, our residents are strong and healthy, and all Washingtonians can thrive.

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01

A DC where all residents benefit from our continued economic and population growth, whether they have been here for five minutes or five generations.

DC will show the world how to counter growing inequality and address historical inequities.

During the past several years, DC has experienced robust economic growth; however, this growth has not benefited residents equally. Existing inequalities, much of it due to the country’s legacy of structural racism, are pronounced along racial and geographic lines. At the same time, DC’s population is growing and its demographics are changing. Many neighborhoods are experiencing dramatic changes in population size, household income, educational attainment, and racial makeup.

Objectives include:

  1. Create robust pathways to the middle class and beyond
  2. Ensure a diverse, innovative, and growing economy
  3. Build strong, diverse communities that all residents can afford to live in
  4. Ensure there is ample housing to accommodate growth
  5. Make transportation cheaper, faster, and more convenient and people-centered
  6. Close the educational achievement gap

02

A DC that is prepared for the impacts of climate change and where residents and businesses take bold action to combat its causes.

DC will uphold the commitments of the Paris climate agreement and lead the country in the response to climate change.

The climate is changing. Heatwaves are longer and more frequent. Rainstorms are more intense. Sea level rise makes the potential impact of tropical storms worse. Furthermore, DC is susceptible to three types of flooding: riverine, coastal, and rainfall. Climate change is increasing the likelihood of all of these. Risk is not just about the likelihood of something bad happening. It is also a function of vulnerability. Climate change will disproportionately impact some people more than others. DC has long been a leader in the response to climate change. In fact, prior planning efforts, such as Climate Ready DC, have identified many strategies and ideas. Yet, the scale of the climate problem requires a proportionate response.

Therefore, this strategy focuses on implementation and measures to institutionalize climate action. Together, we will respond to the climate crisis, address the root causes of vulnerability, and do our part to cut carbon pollution.

Objectives include:

  1. Incorporate climate projections into land use, building regulations, and capital investment
  2. Measure and track climate risk (exposure and vulnerability) and adaptation progress
  3. Increase resilience to climate change at the neighborhood and household level
  4. Invest in climate action

03

A DC that embraces advancements in technology, while minimizing the negative consequences of change.

Washington, DC will be a technology-enabled city with strong support and safeguards for its residents.

DC needs to be resilient to three types of technological change: automation and the future of work, the movement of people and goods, and increased cyber threats in an increasingly connected city. Automation occurs when human labor is replaced by a system or process that operates automatically. For example, restaurant orders in many airports are now taken via touchscreen, instead of by a human server. In 2018, DC, like cities across the country, saw the introduction of dockless bikes and scooters, autonomous vehicles tests, and electric skateboards. These mobility technologies could help lower carbon pollution, decrease congestion, and increase access to jobs. They also have safety, land use, and economic implications. Finally, networked, technology-enabled solutions (i.e. smart city approaches) increase efficiency and effectiveness but also increase the potential severity of cyberattacks.

Technological advancements also offer the opportunity to do things more efficiently and effectively. In fact, DC is often cited as a center for civic technology startups and policy innovation. Together, we will take a proactive approach to embrace innovation while minimizing the drawbacks.

Objectives include:

  1. Improve the whole community’s ability to mitigate, respond to, and recover from cyberthreats
  2. Make DC a prime location for workers of the future and prepare for automation
  3. Leverage new technology and big data for civic solutions
  4. Adapt to new transportation technologies and increase mobility

04

A DC where every neighborhood is safe, our residents are strong and healthy, and all Washingtonians can thrive.

DC will address disparities in health and reduce crime in all neighborhoods.

Though the overall health of DC residents has improved over the last decade, persistent health disparities are pervasive and evident by race and ethnicity, income, and neighborhood. For example, while infant mortality in DC has declined overall, babies born to Black mothers are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than babies born to White mothers. In addition, life expectancy varies across neighborhoods by as much as 21 years. These disparate health outcomes correlate with environmental conditions — including the impact of community violence — illustrating the impact that social, economic, and physical conditions can have on an individual’s wellbeing. Addressing these factors, called the social determinants of health, is critical to closing the gap in health outcomes, preventing violence, and building resilience for all District residents. In addition to comprehensively working to improve health for all residents, the District has adopted a public health approach to violence prevention that emphasizes the holistic needs of individuals and their communities. Together, we will strengthen efforts to improve health and safety for all District residents.

Objectives include:

  1. Reduce crime in all neighborhoods and reverse the recent spike in homicides
  2. Close health access and outcome gaps across all neighborhoods

Read Washington, DC's Resilience Strategy