The Greater Washington Community Foundation is pleased to release the findings from Voices of the Community: DC, Maryland, Virginia (VoicesDMV). This new community engagement initiative, conducted in partnership with the Urban Institute, is lifting up residents’ stories and perceptions of the quality of life in the Greater Washington region to accelerate effective community-driven improvement.
The Community Foundation created VoicesDMV to serve as a catalyst for community investments that will ensure a more equitable, just, and thriving region for all residents. The initiative specifically seeks to shed light on the region’s challenges and opportunities related to housing, transportation, safety, economic security, race relations and community well-being.
While the Greater Washington region is undeniably prosperous, the VoicesDMV findings show that the region’s economic growth and prosperity are not evenly distributed:
- The survey found that 18 percent of respondents did not have enough money for either food or housing at some point in the past 12 months. Even further, 29 percent of respondents said they knew someone in the region who was forced to leave their jurisdiction in the past two years for a reason other than their own choice. High housing costs (58 percent) and job loss (23 percent) were the most common reasons for moving.
- Despite the sense that the DMV is more inclusive than other places, one in four people surveyed said they had felt discriminated against in the region in the past year, and 82 percent of these individuals felt discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.
- Residents have clear priorities for their local governments, such as protecting people from crime, making sure children get a quality education and maintaining local infrastructure; and the majority of residents trust their elected leaders. But 79 percent of respondents felt they had “little” or “no” influence over local government decisionmaking.
To capture the experiences and sentiments of community members from all walks of life, The Community Foundation and the Urban Institute conducted an extensive survey of more than 3,000 residents; held focus groups with Spanish-speaking immigrants, disconnected youth (youth not connected to either school or work), middle-class individuals, Muslims, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and members of the LGBTQ community; and engaged residents through community conversations in Prince George’s County, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, and DC.
The result is a collection of rich, local data that provide a roadmap to inform and inspire local government, philanthropy, businesses, and community-based organizations to develop responsive strategies and make more strategic investments that better serve the needs of our communities.
The full report is available at https://www.thecommunityfoundation.org/voicesdmv, along with interactive data tables and jurisdiction-focused two-pagers that allow for deeper engagement with the data.