These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington

These places are not the best that Washington has to offer.

This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out that we updated it for 2018.

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When you think of Washington, you normally think of Seattle, rain, and beautiful mountains.

What you don’t normally think about are the potential stink holes that are around the mountains.

So we dug in and did the dirty work for you to figure out where the worst places to live are in the Evergreen State.

The following are the worst, not so evergreen places in Washington:

  1. Shelton (Photos)
  2. Kelso (Photos)
  3. Union Gap (Photos)
  4. Centralia (Photos)
  5. Aberdeen (Photos)
  6. Airway Heights
  7. Hoquiam (Photos)
  8. Toppenish (Photos)
  9. Tukwila (Photos)
  10. Quincy (Photos)

What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small town America, that’s not the case. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place.

However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.

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

How we determined the worst places to live in Washington for 2018

To figure out how bad a place is to live in, 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 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight — if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.

Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,100 people were considered — leaving 118 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 118 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 Washington — Shelton. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Washington.

This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.

1. Shelton

Shelton, Washington

Population: 9,832
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $150,400 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.6% (14th worst)
More on Shelton: Data | Jobs | Photos
While the median household income in Shelton is higher than other towns on this list, causing it to be lower down on the list of “worst cities”, Shelton still has the 14th worst unemployment rate in the state, as well as the 22nd worst crime index.

Therefore, though the average Shelton household brings in a higher income, there are fewer people working here than in other cities across the state. It doesn’t help that everyone has to be constantly worried about crime, either.

2. Kelso

Kelso, Washington

Population: 11,871
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $120,700 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.7% (3rd worst)
More on Kelso: Data | Jobs | Photos
Located in southwest Washington close to Mount St. Helens, Kelso ranks as the most unlivable place in Cowlitz County.

The city scored poorly across the board for the criteria we analyzed, with the exception of having an excellent commute time.

It seems that people in the cities on our list are much more likely on average to find ways to get out.

3. Union Gap

Union Gap, Washington

Population: 6,125
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Home Values: $93,700 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (80th worst)
More on Union Gap: Data | Jobs | Photos
You might have passed through Union Gap once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.

Here’s what science says about why Union Gap needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 5.7%, residents earn about $37,202 a year, and home prices are just over $93,700. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.

And there simply isn’t anything to do in Union Gap.

4. Centralia

Centralia, Washington

Population: 16,729
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Home Values: $148,900 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (23rd worst)
More on Centralia: Data | Jobs | Photos
Centralia was the site of an infamous massacre in 1919 and now it has massacred the competition when it comes to being the worst place to live in Washington.

The mix of extremely high unemployment and crime is a winning combination to end up high on our list of worst places to live. Centralia resides in the worst 10% of both categories.

On the plus side, those who do a job have a relatively short commute to work as the median commute time for people in Centralia is the top 20% of places in Washington.

5. Aberdeen

Aberdeen, Washington

Population: 16,335
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Values: $120,200 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (28th worst)
More on Aberdeen: Data | Jobs | Photos
Aberdeen ranks as the 5th worst place to live in Washington.

Known as the “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula” it seems as if the nickname might want to add “Gateway to high unemployment” as it ranks as the 28th worst in the State.

That being said, the spending on childhood education in the city is higher than the state average and the weather is about average for Washington.

6. Airway Heights

Population: 6,523
Rank Last Year: 23 (Up 17)
Home Values: $150,800 (17th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (18th worst)
More on Airway Heights: Data | Jobs
If, by some reason, you were driving through Airway Heights, after stopping to ask for directions, you may have noticed that things aren’t so peachy keen here.

It’s tough out there for people to stay afloat when their income levels are so low ($42,014) and they can’t get good jobs (9.9% unemployment rate).

Airway Heights ranks as the 6th wost place in Washington.

7. Hoquiam

Hoquiam, Washington

Population: 8,434
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Values: $96,600 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (4th worst)
More on Hoquiam: Data | Jobs | Photos
Welcome to Hoquiam, which might be one of the poorest areas in Washington. Residents average $37,628 a year in combined income, which is right at the poverty line. In fact, 2110.0% of Hoquiam residents live below the poverty level.

Homes here go for an average of $96,600 and the unemployment rate hovers near 13.2%.

8. Toppenish

Toppenish, Washington

Population: 8,977
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 3)
Home Values: $114,100 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (20th worst)
More on Toppenish: Data | Jobs | Photos
Toppenish, WA needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.

Additionally, crime is 30th worst in the state, which is very high considering Toppenish is so far removed from the rest of Washington.

If you know anyone in Toppenish, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.

9. Tukwila

Tukwila, Washington

Population: 19,878
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Values: $248,600 (65th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (47th worst)
More on Tukwila: Data | Jobs | Photos
Tukwila doesn’t have it much better, in terms of overall economic outlook. The unemployment rate is at 7.4%, and people average less than $48,490 a year in combined household incomes. Homes stand at $248,600, which is very low, and crime in the worst 10% in Washington.

And again, in terms of the overall ‘enjoyment’ factor, it’s not easy to find fun on a Friday night.

10. Quincy

Quincy, Washington

Population: 7,248
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 5)
Home Values: $133,500 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (6th worst)
More on Quincy: Data | Jobs | Photos
Quincy, where there’s absolutely nothing to do unless you enjoy bowling, ranks as the 10th worst city in Washington.

Besides the lack of pure amenities, Quincy has some real economic problems to contend with. The unemployment rate hovers near 12.8%, and families earn around $51,508 a year. It’s also the 46th highest in Washington for crime, where 1 in 24.7 people gets robbed every year.

Does living in a place where people who come to visit are robbed sound like fun?

Wrapping Up The Worst In Washington

If you’re looking at areas in Washington with the worst economic situations, where there’s higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

And in the end, Shelton ranks as the worst city to live in Washington for 2018.

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

  1. Mercer Island (Pop. 24,467)
  2. Sammamish (Pop. 62,136)
  3. Newcastle (Pop. 11,189)

For more Washington reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Washington

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Shelton 9,832 10.6% $150,400
2 Kelso 11,871 14.7% $120,700
3 Union Gap 6,125 5.7% $93,700
4 Centralia 16,729 9.5% $148,900
5 Aberdeen 16,335 8.6% $120,200
6 Airway Heights 6,523 9.9% $150,800
7 Hoquiam 8,434 13.2% $96,600
8 Toppenish 8,977 9.7% $114,100
9 Tukwila 19,878 7.4% $248,600
10 Quincy 7,248 12.8% $133,500
11 Yakima 93,338 10.0% $158,400
12 Grandview 11,098 16.0% $124,400
13 Wapato 5,062 13.0% $111,200
14 Burlington 8,572 9.0% $187,700
15 Sedro-Woolley 11,225 9.6% $178,100
16 Clarkston 7,314 9.6% $127,500
17 Longview 36,720 11.5% $161,800
18 Moses Lake 21,846 8.0% $144,900
19 Chehalis 7,340 6.6% $168,000
20 Fife 9,645 7.5% $229,100
21 Seatac 28,298 6.4% $246,100
22 Port Angeles 19,420 11.0% $188,300
23 Lakewood 59,489 10.8% $218,600
24 Bremerton 39,388 8.7% $178,600
25 Yelm 8,066 12.3% $202,500
26 Sunnyside 16,217 7.1% $119,100
27 Mount Vernon 33,388 8.1% $206,500
28 Tacoma 205,602 8.0% $212,400
29 Walla Walla 31,952 8.0% $173,200
30 Ephrata 7,980 7.4% $147,100
31 Everett 106,580 7.7% $242,200
32 Auburn 75,607 7.4% $241,800
33 Spokane 212,078 7.6% $160,800
34 Port Orchard 13,265 10.1% $256,500
35 Sequim 6,736 9.9% $203,400
36 Cheney 11,479 11.9% $176,100
37 Ocean Shores 5,673 17.7% $181,100
38 Othello 7,726 4.4% $148,700
39 Federal Way 93,986 6.8% $259,300
40 Pasco 68,567 6.8% $166,400
41 Kent 125,492 6.8% $262,800
42 Spokane Valley 93,322 6.8% $169,900
43 Connell 5,414 6.0% $119,600
44 Sumner 9,691 5.9% $234,700
45 Lynnwood 36,861 5.4% $300,400
46 Woodland 5,684 3.6% $193,900
47 Burien 50,187 5.8% $290,500
48 Puyallup 39,274 7.4% $258,800
49 Kennewick 77,975 6.9% $174,500
50 Vancouver 169,982 8.1% $217,200
51 Des Moines 30,904 6.7% $266,500
52 Arlington 18,749 7.4% $244,000
53 Ellensburg 18,957 5.5% $206,800
54 Olympia 49,608 8.6% $246,100
55 Pacific 7,042 8.3% $211,600
56 Monroe 17,906 6.2% $261,600
57 Wenatchee 33,257 6.2% $208,200
58 Bellingham 84,462 7.9% $306,300
59 Enumclaw 11,543 6.5% $240,900
60 Prosser 5,860 3.6% $158,700
61 East Wenatchee 13,589 5.5% $216,300
62 Marysville 64,955 7.7% $244,800
63 Renton 98,499 5.3% $313,500
64 Ferndale 12,666 8.1% $252,600
65 Snohomish 9,551 5.4% $290,200
66 Lacey 45,644 8.8% $227,900
67 Pullman 32,176 11.0% $233,000
68 Orting 7,254 6.0% $207,600
69 Gig Harbor 8,307 10.7% $347,400
70 Tumwater 21,684 6.2% $224,900
71 Oak Harbor 22,544 8.0% $226,100
72 Dupont 9,224 10.6% $310,600
73 College Place 8,996 4.5% $173,100
74 Battle Ground 18,987 6.8% $223,000
75 Bonney Lake 19,022 6.2% $272,400
76 Stanwood 6,685 4.7% $273,000
77 Washougal 14,987 7.3% $243,400
78 Port Townsend 9,286 5.7% $301,700
79 Selah 7,599 4.3% $206,200
80 Milton 7,239 5.4% $234,400
81 Seattle 668,849 5.1% $484,600
82 West Richland 13,407 6.7% $202,200
83 Richland 53,227 5.7% $213,000
84 North Bend 6,475 7.1% $424,100
85 Poulsbo 9,806 4.8% $288,200
86 University Place 32,342 7.3% $293,700
87 Shoreline 55,021 7.0% $352,200
88 Lake Stevens 30,352 5.0% $274,900
89 Edgewood 9,862 4.9% $307,800
90 Anacortes 16,229 5.7% $327,300
91 Steilacoom 6,175 7.4% $295,300
92 Covington 19,172 4.8% $271,200
93 Liberty Lake 8,566 8.9% $263,000
94 Mountlake Terrace 20,747 5.0% $274,900
95 Ridgefield 6,112 3.1% $287,600
96 Bothell 43,153 6.2% $372,700
97 Edmonds 41,020 5.2% $413,000
98 Fircrest 6,660 8.5% $282,400
99 Lynden 13,204 3.7% $287,200
100 Kenmore 21,830 5.2% $427,700

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About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

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25 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington

  1. We just moved to Bremerton about a year ago and absolutely love it! There are gorgeous family friendly refurbished parks, the downtown has already had the sidewalks widened, more streets are becoming pedestrian friendly, and there are beautiful homes that are very affordable when compared to King County and Tacoma.
    I will admit, I would like to see more little shops and restaurants fill the storefronts, but it’s only a matter of time. I think that Bremerton gets a bad rap for how it looked a decade ago, but it is lovely now and getting better every month.

  2. This article should be titled “10 Worst Places to Live in Western Washington”. I know of some absolutely horrible places on the east side that are a lot worse than several of the towns on this list.

  3. Most of the towns in this top 10 list were built on ailing industries, like lumber and shipping. They continue to be the homes of hard-working people who struggle daily in the wake of a changing economy and a coarsening society.

    The numbers are the numbers, and they unfortunately don’t tell the whole story. But when you say things ” And remember, don’t blame the messenger,” followed by some of the F’d up things you wrote for “entertainment purposes only,” it seems disingenuous.

  4. Boy this must say alot about me when I have lived in #1,#2 and # 4 on this list Its not any thing to get upset about, we still live in a great state and area, so take it as something to improve on maybe they’ll add its citizen’s care about its homeless or those who are less fortionate then themselves, they will rate each of these cities higher then many others because under the situations that are before each of us, helps us learn compassion for others do you agree?

  5. Geez calm down everyone! In case some of you missed the quote at the end of the article here it is. “This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased. Snarkiness incorporated for entertainment purposes only. Hold on to your pants”

    I enjoyed this article while relaxing at home here in Tacoma #12 on the list, the city everyone loves to hate.

    1. Only because it truly should be number one worst place to live in the entire pacific Northwest.
      Sorry you live there it must be ruff to hear. Not saying you’re the worst for living there, just the city you live in is. Why do you think the television show “cop’s” had permanent show producers stationed in Tacoma? Because every show had
      Tacoma in it because of its high crime rate. And crime sales in the reality show segment. Tacoma has every type of crime there is especially all big ones..

  6. I agree with Longview. The worst of Washington. Should be #1. Meth capital of the state. A hockey team has more teeth than that whole city.

  7. Just moved to Bainbridge Island last year and we think it’s fabulous! Weak reasons for BI to appear on this list! And I’ll take 35 minute ferry ride any day instead of sitting in my car in traffic! That 35 minutes; read the paper, check emails, and a fabulous Happy Hour on the ride home! Are you kidding me!!! Who made up this list? BTW, there’s plenty to do on the island! Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, shopping, boating, golf, tennis, should I go on?

    1. You need a lot of money and there is a waiting list for apartments to rent. 37 degrees this morning on April 15th burr.

    2. Anyplace can be made livable if you have the money. Duh. Did you really get something from writing that comment? I didn’t.

  8. Funny you should mention Skipper and Gilligan for Bainbridge Island. Russell Johnson, who played the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, resided there for decades and seemed to like it. Obviously, he thought it befitted him.

  9. A nice example of interweb bullsh*t . Have the writers ever visited any of these towns? I have, and there’s some damn fine areas on this pathetic list. Statistics can be manipulated to prove whatever point the writer wants to make.

  10. I had to laugh when I saw population density was a positive on this list. I’d rather live in a cave than a city. Though, you can add Centralia’s taser-happy, killing-cats-with-hammers, union-protected cop to the list of reasons not to live there.

  11. Burlington wash. should be on the list. There is a lack of amenities. Most of the restaurants are fast food or commercial chains. There are only two grocery stores supporting the population, and these stores are often too crowded. There is a charge for the library if a person lives outside the city limits.
    I wish I could move away from here.

  12. How do you have Prairie Ridge at 51 it is the meth and trailer park capital of pierce county? I guess you count selling drugs as a job.

  13. Omg…I really HOPE this list doesn’t represent the truth about Bremerton. I live on the East coast, North Carolina, and have never visited Washington state. My daughter, however, has visited and decided to move there. Lindsey is 21 and is transferring schools and moving her life across the country to be with her guy who’s stationed there. He’s in the navy. She’s such a fearless, adventurous soul. She’s smart and classy. Not culpable or naive at all. Still, she’s my baby girl and I worry so much for her safety. I guess all I can do is trust that I’ve raised her right and pray.

  14. You put Yakima as a better city to live in than Anacortes…. hahaha. I grew up in Yakima and moved away when I was 21. Been in Anacortes for 10 years… I make 80k+ a year and live in a beautiful area and I hear of little crime on the island and everything is pretty clean.

    Yakima is just about the opposite. Seems like the blue collar higher wage jobs like the lumber mill are shutting down and most people wouldn’t feel safe walking around at night. And there are areas most people just won’t go because crime is high.

    I think you need to spend more time in these cities before you make some list that is suppose to provide a service to people.

  15. Moving to Washington State or Oregan this summer and would love to hear about any cities that has a good health system, good education (community college), jobs & least expensive to live. Thank you.


  17. Port Orchard crime stats are skewed because it is the county seat – Sheriff Dept calls are reported here- with a small population, it skews the data.

  18. Auburn WA, In the valley, proof that the planet has a a**hole, and this is were all the sh** is, worked here for 20 yrs, thank god I don’t live here, what a dump. should be in the top 5.

  19. I hate living in County everything is very expensive and all companies do not pay well, that is why is many homeless in Seattle

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