Virginia Beach is getting too expensive for service workers, the people who staff one of the city’s top industries.

That’s according to Mel Jones with the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. She presented an interim report on the city’s housing to the city council on Tuesday.

Jones said the Beach housing market is too pricey for many single earners.

"Generally, a man living alone, a woman living alone, a single mom...would have a really hard time finding housing in Virginia Beach. They can barely afford the median rent,” said Jones, who led a similar study for the city in 2016.

Single-income households in many professions — like firefighters, police and sheriff’s deputies and postal workers — would likely need a second earner to afford median rents, which now sit at $1,433.

However, Jones told the council, splitting costs may not solve the problem for everyone.

"There are some people — home health aides, personal care aides, child care workers — who will struggle to afford the median rent, even when they're sharing costs with someone else,” she said.

Tech researchers came to similar conclusions when they did a housing study in 2016 for Virginia Beach.

“With median house prices above $260,000 and median gross rent more than $1,200, Virginia Beach is roughly a $22 -an-hour rental market and a $38-an-hour market for buyers,” the 2016 study said.

“Yet a large part of Virginia Beach’s economy is tourist-based and heavily reliant on jobs that pay less than $10 [an hour].”

Median rent rose 16% since the last study – from $1,200 to over $1,400. In order to afford the median rent now, Virginia Beach service workers would have to make just under $30 per hour without being considered cost burdened by their housing costs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers someone cost burdened if they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. According to a 2021analysis by WHRO, more than a third of Hampton Roads households spent that or more of their monthly income on housing costs.

That was higher than in most comparable metro areas in the U.S.; the highest of all metro areas in Virginia; and higher than the state and national averages.

There are other cities in the South where housing costs are even more burdensome than Virginia Beach, but the region as a whole is less affordable than other metro areas, including Northern Virginia, Nashville and Raleigh, according to a WHRO analysis.

When Virginia Beach voted to pursue another housing study last year, officials cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst.

“So many things have changed in light of the pandemic,” Ruth Hill, the city’s Director of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation, said at the time.

“One of the things I really wanted to work on was reinvigorating the strategy for affordable housing in our city, because it so needs it.”

The 2016 study recommended solutions like building housing near public transportation, rebuilding the city’s aging single-family homes into multi-family units, organizing a land bank and subsidizing housing costs for service workers.

In the six years since the study, the city hasn’t implemented any of these recommendations.