VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Hundreds of thousands of people call Hampton Roads home. But in two of the seven cities, recent research shows the cost of living is higher than what some city employees can afford.
“Public works, libraries, police, public safety employees, financial department, across the board a lot of different jobs," Laura Goren, research director for The Commonwealth Institute, told 13News Now Thursday.
TCI, a nonprofit based in Richmond, compared city employee wages versus the cost of living in Newport News and Virginia Beach after being approached by people close to the collective bargaining conversation for both cities.
They found that in both municipalities, many local public employees cannot afford to live in the same city they serve.
In Newport News, TCI calculated that a single employee working full time would need to make $37,793 a year to afford the city's "standard of living." It found 1 out of 6 full-time city employees do not meet that threshold.
When children are a part of the equation, TCI calculated that that needed amount becomes $57,147 with one child and $70,584 with two children, and that five of every six city employees would not meet that mark.
“Not an extravagant level of living, but it is what you need to be able to afford a decent life. And hope for a better future for yourself and your children," Goren said.
In Virginia Beach, TCI calculated that a single person would need to make on average $43,451 to afford what they call a quality standard of living. It found four of every 10 city employees could not afford to on their salary, after reviewing city employee classifications and hourly pay or salaries.
When children are a part of the equation, TCI calculated that that needed amount becomes $65,000 with one child and approximately 82,361 with two children.
It also says 9 of every 10 people could not meet an "adequate" standard of living if they had children.
This research does not include any information on school staff, which is not considered a part of this data pool.
Virginia lawmakers in 2020 passed legislation to allow local governments to enter into collective bargaining conversations with labor unions.
When asked, Goren noted it's unclear to determine how many city employees potentially do not live in their respective cities because of this gap.