The Best of Urban–Greater DC in 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic hit every corner of the country in 2020, and Washington, DC, was no exception. The public health crisis and resulting economic fallout widened disparities among DC neighborhoods and hurt families who were already struggling to afford basic needs.

Throughout the year, Urban–Greater DC initiative researchers identified the evidence-based solutions to the region’s biggest challenges—challenges even larger and more pressing than in years past. They partnered with community programs that are taking relief efforts into their own hands, explored how pandemic responses can also advance racial equity, and spoke with community members who are fighting for the city’s residents. Here’s some of what we’ve uncovered over the past 12 months.

Who Is Most Affected by the Economic Downturn in the DC Region?

 “Compared with workers in other industries, people working in COVID-19-affected industries in Greater Washington are more likely to be younger than 31, and they’re even more likely to be younger than 21. They are more likely to be Latino and slightly more likely to be Black, and they’re more likely to live in households with low incomes.”

 —Peter Tatian

Centering DC Public Housing Residents in COVID-19 Response Can Help Address Racial Inequities

 “The residents we spoke with were clear: although they have the strength to help each other deal with the pandemic’s challenges, it is essential for government entities, community-based organizations, and the private sector to invest in public housing, put equity at the forefront, and center the people most affected in developing their COVID-19 responses.”

 —Elsa Falkenburger and Eona Harrison

How DC-Area Nonprofits Are Measuring Their Success during the Pandemic

 “The Latin American Youth Center’s tracking shows that the organization connected with 3,000 young people and their family members during the first months of the pandemic.”

 —Leiha Edmonds and Ananya Hariharan

An Innovative Program Provides Cash Relief to DC Residents Hit Hardest by COVID-19

 “THRIVE partners… unequivocally believe that Ward 8’s Black residents with low incomes should make their own decisions about how they can best use this cash to weather the pandemic.”

 —Mary Bogle

What Could Stronger Rent Control Mean for DC Residents?

“As the pandemic wears on, there have been increasing calls among housing activists for the cancelation of rent altogether, aligned with national proposals (PDF) for eliminating rent.”

Mychal Cohen

The Pandemic’s Disparate Effects on DC Workers and Neighborhoods

 “In DC, the number of workers in vulnerable industries is distributed unevenly, with 10 out of 47 neighborhoods accounting for almost 50 percent of all vulnerable jobs.”

 —Yipeng Su

Three Ways to Prevent Physical Displacement of Black Latines in DC and Beyond

 “Displacement’s disparate impacts on DC’s Afro-Latine community calls for new approaches to studying and addressing the crisis.”

 —Sonia Torres Rodriguez

Innovative Models to Preserve Affordable Housing Are Even More Important in the Aftermath of COVID-19

 “In high-cost markets like DC, a growing share of working families were already struggling to pay their monthly rent. Many more now face the prospect of housing instability, making models aimed at preserving the supply of affordable housing for all income levels even more important today.”

 —Monique King-Viehland