Columbia is a census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal cities of the Baltimore metropolitan area and the Washington metropolitan area. It is a planned community consisting of 10 self-contained villages. It began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents' quality of life. Creator and developer James W. Rouse saw the new community in terms of human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious and class segregation.
Columbia has consistently ranked in the top 10 of CNN Money's Best Places to Live in the United States.
Columbia proper consists only of that territory governed by the Columbia Association, but larger areas are included under its name by the U.S. Postal Service and the Census Bureau. These include several other communities which predate Columbia, including Simpsonville, Atholton, and in the case of the census, part of Clarksville. The census-designated place had a population of 99,615 at the 2010 United States Census. It is the second most populous community in Maryland after Baltimore. More recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey put the population at approximately 103,467 as of 2015.
Columbia was founded by James W. Rouse (1914-1996), a native of Easton, Maryland. In 1935, Rouse obtained a job in Baltimore with the Federal Housing Administration, a New Deal agency whose purpose was to promote home ownership and home construction.