The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia For 2023

The worst places to live in Virginia are Petersburg and Galax for 2023 based on Friday Night Science.

Virginia is a really beautiful place, and it’s almost four states in one. On one hand you’ve got your politically motivated and super rich, and then down the coast, a large swath of middle class Americans. Then, you’ve got the largest portion, a mix of self-admitted rednecks who still identify with the south.

And then you’ve got D.C. and its burbs. That’s just another story all together.

But is it all great in the “Old Dominion”? Of course not. Just like every other state, Virginia has its trouble spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities in Virginia are the least desirable to live in.

Of course, you’ll most likely disagree if you see your town atop this list. But nonetheless, according to science, these cities are the worst places you could possibly live if you make Virginia your home. These places need a big hug right about now.

After analyzing 63 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Virginia:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia For 2023

  1. Petersburg
  2. Galax
  3. Emporia
  4. Franklin
  5. Danville
  6. Front Royal
  7. Roanoke
  8. Martinsville
  9. Hopewell
  10. Norfolk

Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Virginia, that’s not the case.

We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Virginia is Lexington.

However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Virginia? The worst place to live in Virginia is Petersburg.

Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Virginia reading, check out:

Table Of Contents: Top Ten | Methodology | Summary | Table

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia For 2023

Petersburg, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 33,229
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $119,200
Unemployment Rate: 12.2%
More on Petersburg:  Data | Photos

Petersburg was the site of a famous Civil War battle. A siege of the town lasted 9 months and ultimately signaled the last stand of Robert E. Lee’s army.

Times were tough in Petersburg during those months. They remain tough today. All these years later, the town represents the number 1 worst spot in Virginia to put down roots. The area suffers from an anemic economy and a crime rate that runs about 60% above the national average. At the same time, housing and education in the area are substandard.

Still, the 33,229 residents of Petersburg are proud of their history. This includes battlefield commemorations and other cultural contributions, like the Pocahontas Island Black History Museum.

Galax, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,681
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $100,000
Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
More on Galax:  Data | Photos

Galax is a small town on the North Carolina state line that most refer to as the Appalachian region of the state. Sure, it’s in a beautiful area, and there’s lots of culture, especially in terms of music. But, if you’re measuring desirability, it’s the 2nd worst in Virginia. Let’s see why.

When you’re comparing the unemployment rate in Virginia to the rest of the nation, Virginians are pretty hard workers. But when comparing Virginians to other Virginians, you see some big gaps. The unemployment rate in Galax is 5.1%, which is one of the highest levels in the state.

However, the pure economics of Galax are way behind the times. Residents here earn about $39,808 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It’s the 7th lowest income in the state.

Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $100,000. And, crime here is actually above average.

And when you consider the sheer number of things to do for entertainment, if you’re not into exploring the outdoors, you’ve got a long drive for some fun. Keep in mind this part of the state has some pretty lousy weather for half the year as well.

Add it all up and Galax is the 2nd worst city in Virginia.

Emporia, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,761
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $104,500
Unemployment Rate: 15.9%
More on Emporia:  Data | Photos

Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 15.9% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $36,111 a year.

Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 14th highest crime rate in Virginia. While the numbers aren’t staggering (Virginia is a relatively safe place when you compare it to the rest of the country), it’s still undesirable when you consider that there are far safer (and more stimulating) places to make your home in the Old Dominion.

Franklin, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,249
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $178,800
Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
More on Franklin:  Data | Photos

Don’t go looking for a job in Franklin. They aren’t easy to find. The town’s unemployment rate hovers at 8.5%, the main reason why the community lands on this list of the least enticing hometowns in the state.

A lack of jobs isn’t the only challenge for Franklin’s 8,249 residents. Safety presents a concern as well, with a crime rate nearly 60% above the national average.

Given these problems, it’s surprising that real estate in this southern Virginia town prices many locals out of the market. But that’s what the stats say. The median home value sits at $178,800, compared to a median income of $49,424.

Danville, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 42,556
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $91,800
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
More on Danville:  Data | Photos

Danville briefly served as the capital of the Confederate States of America at the desperate end of the Civil War. It basically represented a last resort before defeat. These days, the town still has that “last resort” feel, ranking at number 5 on this list of worst places in Virginia to call home.

Located in the south-central part of the state, right along the North Carolina border, Danville faces a host of problems. The local economy only supports a median income of $38,904. At the same time, the crime rate tracks at 60% above the national norm.

Still, the town has its bright spots. History buffs can check out the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.

Front Royal, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,039
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $237,800
Unemployment Rate: 8.1%
More on Front Royal:  Data | Photos

Roanoke, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 99,578
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $140,600
Unemployment Rate: 6.4%
More on Roanoke:  Data | Photos

A key hub in an otherwise rural part of the state, Roanoke serves as the biggest urban area in the southwestern section of Virginia. This status comes with its share of problems. A lackluster economy, high crime, and a substandard school system make this one of the least inviting places in Virginia.

Cash can be hard to come by in Roanoke. About a fifth of people make due below the poverty line. At the same time, the local crime rate comes in almost double the U.S. standard.

Still, there are benefits to living in the region’s top metro area. The city features attractions like the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Taubman Museum of Art.

Martinsville, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,476
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 10)
Median Home Value: $77,600
Unemployment Rate: 5.5%
More on Martinsville:  Data | Photos

Located in the southwest part of the state, Martinsville represents an important metro area in a largely rural part of the state. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the town becomes a major draw for people outside the region.

Martinsville lands on this list because of a host of problems. It supports a lackluster economy, with a median income of just $36,832. At the same time, crime runs about 30% above the U.S. norm. Education and housing present issues as well.

Still, there’s lots to do in Martinsville. It hosts a NASCAR track and several interesting learning opportunites, such as the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Hopewell, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 23,020
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $127,300
Unemployment Rate: 8.6%
More on Hopewell:  Data | Photos

Norfolk, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 238,556
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 7)
Median Home Value: $223,300
Unemployment Rate: 7.1%
More on Norfolk:  Data | Photos

Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2023

To figure out the worst places to live in Virginia, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.

We don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that people like the following things:

  • Good education
  • Lots of jobs
  • Low crime
  • Low poverty
  • Nice homes
  • High incomes
  • High population density (Lots of things to do)
  • Short work commutes
  • Health insurance

The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and bias that ranking.

Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 63 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 63 for all the criteria, with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.

Next, we averaged the rankings into one “Worst Place To Live Score.”

Finally, we ranked every city on the “Worst Place To Live Score,” with the lowest score being the worst city in Virginia — Petersburg. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in Virginia.

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts meant as infotainment. We updated this article for 2023. This is our tenth time ranking the worst places to live in Virginia.

Summary: Wrapping Up The Worst In Virginia

If you’re looking at areas in Virginia with the worst economic situations, where there’s higher than average crime and little to do, this is an accurate list.

And in the end, Petersburg ranks as the worst city to live in Virginia for 2023.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:

  1. Falls Church (Pop. 14,494)
  2. Vienna (Pop. 16,465)
  3. Lexington (Pop. 7,287)

For more Virginia reading, check out:

Worst Places To Live In Virginia?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Petersburg 33,229 12.2% $119,200
2 Galax 6,681 5.1% $100,000
3 Emporia 5,761 15.9% $104,500
4 Franklin 8,249 8.5% $178,800
5 Danville 42,556 6.0% $91,800
6 Front Royal 15,039 8.1% $237,800
7 Roanoke 99,578 6.4% $140,600
8 Martinsville 13,476 5.5% $77,600
9 Hopewell 23,020 8.6% $127,300
10 Norfolk 238,556 7.1% $223,300
11 Ashland 7,478 4.8% $210,100
12 Portsmouth 97,454 6.3% $182,700
13 Farmville 7,266 4.7% $204,900
14 Suffolk 93,268 6.5% $273,600
15 Colonial Heights 18,127 6.5% $188,900
16 Bristol 16,996 3.7% $139,000
17 South Boston 8,011 5.9% $142,000
18 Richmond 225,676 6.0% $263,000
19 Fredericksburg 28,027 5.0% $382,400
20 Richlands 5,300 7.4% $94,800
21 Pulaski 8,984 4.3% $123,400
22 Big Stone Gap 5,280 14.3% $141,600
23 Newport News 185,069 5.7% $204,900
24 Marion 5,817 4.8% $119,600
25 Orange 5,012 7.6% $219,500
26 Waynesboro 22,149 4.6% $188,400
27 Lynchburg 78,973 6.1% $169,000
28 Manassas 42,596 5.0% $356,500
29 Woodstock 5,716 6.6% $226,100
30 Staunton 25,358 5.2% $179,900
31 Wytheville 8,260 5.7% $163,100
32 Winchester 28,194 4.0% $270,300
33 Harrisonburg 52,062 5.3% $231,300
34 Chesapeake 247,172 5.1% $291,700
35 Dumfries 5,669 5.5% $226,100
36 Bluefield 5,079 1.9% $136,200
37 Hampton 136,748 6.0% $191,000
38 Covington 5,716 3.4% $69,800
39 Manassas Park 17,081 3.0% $330,200
40 Buena Vista 6,649 1.3% $123,100
41 Radford 16,205 7.3% $174,700
42 Culpeper 19,740 4.0% $304,100
43 Charlottesville 46,597 4.3% $355,800
44 Vinton 8,039 3.0% $149,800
45 Strasburg 7,036 4.1% $212,700
46 Herndon 24,574 2.6% $470,200
47 Abingdon 8,350 5.3% $170,800
48 Smithfield 8,513 5.1% $313,300
49 Williamsburg 15,299 6.2% $328,700
50 Fairfax 23,980 3.6% $596,800
51 Alexandria 158,185 3.2% $579,100
52 Christiansburg 23,174 2.5% $205,000
53 Leesburg 48,223 2.9% $490,500
54 Warrenton 10,002 2.1% $363,000
55 Virginia Beach 457,658 4.3% $295,900
56 Salem 25,335 3.6% $205,900
57 Poquoson 12,382 1.6% $358,700
58 Purcellville 8,910 3.5% $514,900
59 Bridgewater 6,092 6.6% $279,600
60 Blacksburg 44,385 3.7% $335,200
61 Falls Church 14,494 5.1% $838,300
62 Vienna 16,465 3.4% $827,800
63 Lexington 7,287 3.4% $251,500

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.