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Old Greenbelt was settled in 1937 as a public cooperative community in the New Deal Era.
The concept was at the same time both eminently practical and idealistically utopian: the federal government would foster an "ideal" self-sufficient cooperative community that would also ease the pressing housing shortage near the nation's capital.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.3% of the population.
There were 9,747 households of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.7% were married couples living together, 18.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.9% were non-families.
The racial makeup of the city was 39.74% White, 41.35% African American, 0.23% Native American, 12.05% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.11% from other races, and 3.47% from two or more races.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.45% of the population.
Construction of the new town would also create jobs and thus help stimulate the national economic recovery following the Great Depression. The two other green towns are Greendale, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) and Greenhills, Ohio (near Cincinnati).
Greenbelt, which provided affordable housing for federal government workers, was one of three "green" towns planned in 1935 by Rexford Guy Tugwell, head of the United States Resettlement Administration, under authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. A fourth green town, Roosevelt, New Jersey (originally called Homestead), was planned but was not fully developed on the same large scale as Greenbelt. Roosevelt, helped Tugwell lay out the Maryland town on a site that had formerly consisted largely of tobacco fields.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 39.1% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median income for a household in the city was ,328, and the median income for a family was ,671.Kenilworth Avenue (Route 201) traverses Greenbelt in a North-South direction.