Daily Press (Sunday)

Residents agree area needs affordable child care and housing

- By MacKenzie Kibler and Tancy Vandecar-Burdin STAFF FILE

During the Summer of 2023, the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University surveyed Hampton Roads residents for the 14th annual Life in Hampton Roads (LIHR) survey. The LIHR survey asked residents from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach several questions about the quality of life in their area. Over the years, these questions ranged from attitudes towards police, political opinions, the economy and employment.

This year we introduced new questions about the affordabil­ity of child care, housing and health care in Hampton Roads. Residents were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that: “Affordable child care is a problem in the Hampton Roads area, and There is not enough affordable housing in the Hampton Roads area.”

Seventy-one percent of Hampton Roads residents agreed or strongly agreed that affordable child care is a problem and 77.8% agreed there is not enough affordable housing. Regardless of political party, residents in Hampton Roads agree that affordable child care is a problem for families: 86% of residents who identify with the Republican Party agreed that there is not enough affordable child care as did 89% of those who identify with the Democratic Party. The majority of respondent­s from both parties also agree there is not enough affordable housing.

Hampton Roads residents are not alone in feeling there is insufficie­nt affordable child care or housing. Recently, Child Care Aware of America reported the average annual price for child care nationally in 2022 was $10,852, which is 10% of the median income for a married couple and 33% for a single parent. In Virginia, the annual center-based cost for an infant is higher at $15,450 which equates to 43% of the median income for a single-parent family and 12% for a married couple. However, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that out-of-pocket costs should not exceed 7% of a family’s income. Both locally and nationally, we are missing the mark.

The picture for housing affordabil­ity is also bleak. The National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual report, “Out of Reach 2023: The High Cost of Housing,” which showed that Virginia has the 17th highest housing wage

(the hourly wage required

to afford a two-bedroom rental home). Our colleagues at ODU’s Dragas Center told us that the

“The Rent is Too Damn High” in their chapter of the same name for the 2022 State of the Region report. The report showed that about 1 in 3 households in the region paid more than 30% of their income for housing while 1 in 7 households paid more than 50% of their income for housing.

Housing costs, coupled with child care costs, are overwhelmi­ng family budgets — leaving little for college savings, retirement investment­s and unexpected expenses. If we want the region to continue to thrive and if we want current and future residents of Hampton Roads to be able to afford to live, work and raise their families here, we need to be creative and intentiona­l

about our housing policies and investment­s in child care.

While new entertainm­ent and tourism investment­s are attractive and exciting, we also need to focus on how to make the fundamenta­ls of housing and child care more affordable. People on both sides of the aisle agree these are pressing problems. Now we need our civic leaders to work together to come up

with viable and impactful solutions.

MacKenzie Kibler is a doctoral candidate in the criminolog­y and criminal justice program at Old Dominion University and a graduate research assistant with the Social Science Research Center. Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, Ph.D., is the director of the Old Dominion University Social Science Research Center.

 ?? ?? Affordable child care — like at this center in Norfolk — was difficult to secure before the pandemic, and has been nearly impossible to find in Hampton Roads since it ebbed.
Affordable child care — like at this center in Norfolk — was difficult to secure before the pandemic, and has been nearly impossible to find in Hampton Roads since it ebbed.

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