The High Cost of Living: New Statistics on the Impact in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia is renowned for its economic prosperity, but behind this facade lies the untold story of families struggling under the high cost of living. The recent report by the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia paints a grim picture of the fundamental challenges our neighbors face.

According to the report, most families in Northern Virginia are modifying their spending habits due to inflation. Eighty percent have had to change their consumption habits, and a staggering 26% have sacrificed basic needs.

One key takeaway from the report is that the high cost of living is not a challenge exclusive to low-income households. Surprisingly, even families with household incomes above $100,000 have cut back on discretionary purchases. The narrative that only the underprivileged struggle to make ends meet in Northern Virginia is untrue.

The Northern Virginia Family Story

Crissy and Chanel, two single mothers from Prince William County, bravely shared their personal stories to spotlight the toll of this hidden crisis.

Chanel, mother to four children, described her plight, “I just bought a couple of items—small items, and it cost me $50. Once the food is gone, then you gotta go back and get more.” She continued, emphasizing her daily challenge: “I haven’t bought [my son] shoes because I want to make sure that they’re eating.”

The high cost of living also extends to housing. For Crissy, a ten-year resident in her Prince William County home, the rent has jumped from $1,000 to $1,600 monthly. Unable to find affordable housing elsewhere, she finds herself between a rock and a hard place. The emotional toll is apparent: “I feel like I’m never going to be able to buy a home. I’m always going to have to rent.”

Crissy’s narrative further emphasizes the immense strain caused by the high cost of living: “I feel bad because I don’t really do anything with my kids… I cannot afford it at all.”

The Cost of Basic Needs

Another alarming find in the report is the compromise on basic needs. In an affluent region like Northern Virginia, it’s heartbreaking to learn that 1 in 4 families delay medical treatments, keep their homes at unsafe temperatures, or even go hungry to make ends meet. As inflation continues to gnaw at the pockets of our community, families are burdened with choices no one should ever have to make.

To truly understand the high cost of living, one must look beyond the poverty rate. Despite boasting a low official poverty rate, 20% of Northern Virginia families in 2021 couldn’t afford basic needs like shelter, food, and healthcare. This statistic jumps to a staggering 29% when childcare costs are included.

Specific communities, such as Manassas/Manassas Park and Alexandria, experience even higher rates of income inadequacy. Over 30% of families within these areas cannot cover basic essentials, and over 40% struggle to include childcare.

Community Non-Profits Help Neighbors

In an era where the true cost of living in Northern Virginia is soaring, the community must rally together. There is hope with organizations like NVFS and the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia shedding light on these issues. But it’s upon all of us – policymakers, community leaders, and everyday citizens – to collaborate and find long-term solutions. Together, we can combat the high cost of living and ensure a brighter future for all residents of Northern Virginia.

Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) is at the forefront of this battle, offering an array of services to ensure every individual, at every life stage, can thrive in our community. Annually, NVFS empowers more than 35,000 individuals to achieve self-sufficiency. While the organization provides invaluable aid, the high cost of living in Northern Virginia remains an ongoing issue that needs wider attention.


If you need assistance, visit the NVFS website to learn about our Hunger Resource Center, Health & Well-Being programs, Workforce Development initiatives, and Youth Services.