The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2020

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

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the worst places to live in Washington.

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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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2020

  1. Shelton
  2. Tukwila
  3. Centralia
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Kelso
  6. Union Gap
  7. Wapato
  8. Toppenish
  9. Lakewood
  10. Ocean Shores

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. And the worst place to live in Washington? That would be Shelton.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.

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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2020

Shelton, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,996
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $156,600 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (33rd worst)
More on Shelton:  Data | Photos

When you're looking at science and data, the city of Shelton is the worst place you can live in the state of Washington. Let's see why.

While some people have come to the defense of Shelton as being 'not as bad' as it is portrayed in the media, the fact remains that this city deserves to be high on this list when you look at the data.

Crime is the 8th highest in Washington here. Residents have a 1 in 15.2 chance of being robbed every year within city limits. For Washington, that's really high.

The unemployment rate is 6.5%, which is the 33rd highest in the state, and families earn just under $40,141 a year, which is the 10th highest in Washington. 25.2% of the people here live below the poverty line.

Add it all up, and this is truly the worst place you could live in Washington.

Tukwila, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 20,198
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $287,300 (61st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (19th worst)
More on Tukwila:  Data | Photos

Tukwila needs some tough love.

Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Tukwila. That's not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Tukwila. Of the 120 cities considered in this ranking, Tukwila had the least to be proud of across the board.

Not only does Tukwila have Washington's 6lowest home value rank, but it also had the 19th and 2nd highest rankings in unemployment and crime respectively. Statistics like that will certainly make the sun shine a bit dimmer, and it will win you are in contention for title of "Worst City in Washington."

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

Centralia, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 16,932
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $145,800 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (7th worst)
More on Centralia:  Data | 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.

Aberdeen, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 16,359
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $124,200 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (31st worst)
More on Aberdeen:  Data | Photos

Aberdeen ranks as the 4th 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 3worst 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.

Kelso, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,983
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $133,900 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.8% (4th worst)
More on Kelso:  Data | 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.

Union Gap, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,142
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $105,200 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (67th worst)
More on Union Gap:  Data | Photos

Union Gap ranks as the 6th worst place to live in Washington for 2020.

While the unemployment rate is high (but not terrible), crime is a real factor here. It's the 4th most dangerous place you can live in Washington, according to the latest FBI numbers. If you live here, you have a high chance of being a victim each year.

Residents here earn about $38,957 a year. That's in the bottom half of what people in Washington normally make.

Wapato, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,041
Rank Last Year: 39 (Up 32)
Median Home Value: $107,600 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.4% (1st worst)
More on Wapato:  Data | Photos

Wapato is a really small, densely populated place in Washington.

The unemployment rate here is sky high at 14.4%, and income levels are the 6th lowest in Washington. Homes sell for an average of $107,600.

If you're trying to have some sort of professional career in Washington, this is one of the last places you would want to live.

Toppenish, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,906
Rank Last Year: 22 (Up 14)
Median Home Value: $118,800 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (9th worst)
More on Toppenish:  Data | Photos

Toppenish is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we're aware that it's beautiful and "fun". But that ignores important things like jobs and income.

Toppenish residents earn the 18th-lowest salaries in the state. At $43,823 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $118,800, which means there isn't a lot of demand.

Crime is the 16th highest in Washington per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 9th highest in the state, at 9.4%.

Lakewood, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 59,606
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $248,200 (44th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (20th worst)
More on Lakewood:  Data | Photos

Lakewood came in at number nine on our of list of worst places to live.

It's the most populous in our top ten. That means that relative to the other cities on the list, there's plenty to keep you busy in the city.

Just make sure to keep an eye on your wallet while you're out; the city has one of the highest crime rates in Washington.

Ocean Shores, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,814
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $219,800 (32nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.9% (18th worst)
More on Ocean Shores:  Data | Photos

Ocean Shores places 10th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Washington. Here, 10.0% of the adult population lack's even a high school degree. That makes Ocean Shores have the 50th highest adult drop out rate in Washington.

Income levels are also near the poverty line, and home prices are around $219,800 each -- the 32nd lowest in Washington.

As you can imagine, there's not a lot of demand to live here.

How we determined the worst places to live in Washington for 2020

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 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 120 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 120 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. You can download the data here.

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

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 2020.

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

  1. Brier (Pop. 6,819)
  2. Sammamish (Pop. 64,049)
  3. Mercer Island (Pop. 25,492)

For more Washington reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Washington?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Shelton 9,996 6.5% $156,600
2 Tukwila 20,198 7.8% $287,300
3 Centralia 16,932 9.7% $145,800
4 Aberdeen 16,359 6.7% $124,200
5 Kelso 11,983 10.8% $133,900
6 Union Gap 6,142 5.1% $105,200
7 Wapato 5,041 14.4% $107,600
8 Toppenish 8,906 9.4% $118,800
9 Lakewood 59,606 7.6% $248,200
10 Ocean Shores 5,814 7.9% $219,800

How Is The Area In ?

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.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

32 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2020

  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.

    1. I agree with you I have lived in Bremerton for about 18 years, I love it ..I agree we need to have more business here but too you have to remember we are a navy town so people come and go causing our economy to change alot..

  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.

  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?

  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. This clearly removes any credibility from this writer. Yeah, look at those views from PA and Bainbridge, not to mention Bremerton. How about an article that is truly helpful and not idiotic? Of note, PA is consistently ranked in the best places to live in the country by legitimate pubs.

  12. Your metrics for determining the worst places to live is completely broken. Firstly, anyone that lives in Washington – as I do – knows instinctively that Yakima should be on the top of this list. Also, White Center and Sea Tac not being in the top ten is very curious. Those are the places where people are mugged and shot on a fairly regular basis. And Bainbridge Island? Are you crazy? Almost everyone on Bainbridge Island works in Downtown Seattle. It’s a 30 minute ferry ride. And it’s a 30 second drive across the bridge to the rest of Kitsap. There are so many pieces of evidence that would suggest that this list is insane but the final piece that I would like to enter as evidence: Kingsgate is at the BOTTOM of the list! Kingsgate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Case closed.

    1. Now that I think about it, White Center & South Park should absolutely be on this list. When you drive through White Center, you can see bullet holes on the walls.

      Tukwila has the worst traffic.

  13. I own a home in Centralia. The crime rate is dead on. I have had my wheelbarrow and baby stroller taken from my yard.I accidentally left the stroller outside but who steals a wheelbarrow. I also have had my car broken into and multiple tweakers knock on my door late at night. At least they give you the courtesy of being really loud by knocking hard and yelling to make sure your not home before they break in. I have yet to put up a fence.
    But the good overrides that. The capitol is only a 25 minute drive away and if you hit 508 or highway 12 there are endless outdoor activities. If you live in town there is the Centralia college, post office, grocery store, and other shops within walking distance. I also enjoy living 20 minutes from the Lucky Eagle Casino. Wasting money on the slot machines is fun occasionally.

  14. Port Angeles has good points, but the Crime Rate is getting way out of hand! Heroin and Meth use is booming…seeming its quickly becoming the best business in town. On the up side…they are hiring for corrections officers for both adult and juvenile. Job security, right? :-/ It is a very picturesque city, if you can overlook the dirty needles…
    Canada is just across the straight, with Hurricane ridge at our back door.

    Unemployment is high, and this is supported with all of the free “help” we’re advertising for drug users and mentally unstable people. They are migrating here from the bigger cities. Population is growing, but it’s not with people who are contributing to the community…it’s with tweakers!!!

  15. Well I live in University Place right between Tacoma and Lakewood, Parkland and while I have not been burglarized there are lots of homes around me according to that have been burglarized. I think what should be measured here in Washington is the aggression level. I have never met so many angry people in my life. Unpleasant is the word for the locals around here. Aggression just the high-level and understand it with all the weed available what is the deal here. And I just have one more pet peeve leggings are not pants

    1. ^ what the OP said about the random aggression from strangers is true for this area. Whether they are driving recklessly or screaming at you in the supermarket, it is enough to make you want to drive 30 minutes away to shop when it isn’t urgent instead.

  16. Never would have guessed Port Angeles. I visit there every year for the crab festival. Now nearby Forks would make sense, since it’s a tiny, secluded town in the middle of the forest &, a 2 hour drive from the nearest town.

    Buuut…I’ll admit that the last time I visited Port Angeles, a lot more business buildings were vacant, & while they have many hotels, the Olympic Lodge is the only 4 star hotel, & because of that, they’re often completely booked.

    1. A few years ago, I would have put Federal Way on the list. The mall is on death’s door & there were so many shut down boarded up businesses on the main road that goes through town. After 10 years of driving down that street to & from work, I see the same vacant buildings, or specific buildings that never stay in business for more than a year before a new tennant moves in.

  17. I would like to live in Washington State and I have to live near the Puget Sound near the water and health care. I live in Oahu and getting rock fever living on the Island and the cost of living and getting out of hand because of these politicians making it difficult to live on Oahu. You have to have money to live in Oahu. I use to live in E. Bremerton and Port Orchard when I was in the navy, and no way will I ever move back to that area. It use to be a place to live at, but today no way. It will take some serious googling and home work to decide what part of Washington to live at. I guess the best way is to take a vacation and rent a care and look around. I don’t trust realtors anymore and most of them are just like lawyers and just want your money and make a quick sale, with no morals of the soul. Aloha

  18. You might want to fix the typos in the article, especially when referencing the lack of educated residents in each city.

  19. Yep. Over crowding, the traffic snarls that go with it, maximum noise levels, day and night, 24/7 and sky high housing costs. Gee, what more could a person ask for in picking the perfect place to live?

  20. Um, your ranking is not ‘science’. You could have at least quoted something like ppm’s of air pollutants to introduce some sort of science into your ranking.

  21. I agree with your ranking of Aberdeen, I’ve lived in Aberdeen for about 66 years. Since high school in the 60s we’ve lost about 5,000 people and the economy is worse. Many homeless people are piling up their junk in front of businesses, the new mayor has raised taxes and now wants to accommodate these often dangerous people. It will only bring more bums into our area. The alleys are full of litter and drunks. The cost of services are going up and up, and there is nothing to do for entertainment. I’ve waited all my life for it to get better here but this place is 1 step forward and 3 steps back.

  22. I own a home in Ocean Shores (plan to retire there sooner than later) and I own a home Seattle. I have no idea how Ocean Shores is on this list and Seattle isn’t! Look, I know there’s pretty buildings, lots of jobs and shinny things in Seattle but let’s face it…the place is HORRIBLE to live in. Not sure where to start but I’ll say that at least I can drive down Ocean Shores BL and not see any Homeless camps and garbage all over the place. Also I can walk outside at night in OS and not worry about being mugged, people are actually nice in OS where in Seattle they’re self-centerd, cold, and often very rude (ranked In The top 20 for rudest cities). Education…well the schools aren’t much better in Seattle, in fact they’re among the worst in the county. Oh, I can also look to not be taxed to hell and back in OS where in Seattle my taxes go up every year…and for what? Good thing about this list is it could help keep the Seattle elitist left wing snobs out of Ocean Shores, stay in your little “paradise” on Elliot Bay.

  23. There’s a town on this list I was going to move to.

    Now i’m going to reconsider.

    I should have known better anyway.

  24. I dont know how Bremerton did not make the list. It’s very expensive with taxes like Seattles, houses are way over priced, schools are crummy, dangerous roads, pot shop on every corner, crime, meth, needles in parks, nothing for kids to do, building more section 8, try to attract the homeless and low income but for working fool very expensive to live there . Actually all of Kitsap County is crap.

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