The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2021


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 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Washington.

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 2021

  1. Shelton
  2. Ocean Shores
  3. Tukwila
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Union Gap
  6. Centralia
  7. Hoquiam
  8. Moses Lake
  9. Chehalis
  10. Fife

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 2021.

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 2021

Shelton, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 10,167
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $162,700 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (16th worst)
More on Shelton:  Data | Photos

Built along Oakland Bay in the northwest portion of the state, Shelton sits on the same interconnected waterway as Tacoma and Seattle. However, the geography of the area leaves the town somewhat isolated, with an hour and a half drive necessary to travel to state's biggest metropolis.

The result? An economically limited community located in an otherwise picturesque part of the region. Sure, a quick ride will get you to the Olympic National Forest. That makes for a nice day trip...but day-to-day life stays a struggle.

As proof, just look at the poverty rate. Stats show that 26.9% of the town's 10,167 residents scrape by below the poverty line. Safety, education, and affordability present problems as well.

Ocean Shores, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,975
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $233,300 (3worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (28th worst)
More on Ocean Shores:  Data | Photos

You can tell a lot about Ocean Shores from its name. Yep, you guessed it: the town sits along the ocean shore. In fact, it provides the gateway to the Grays Harbor.

As a result, you get the gorgeous views you'd expect. Check out Ocean Shores beach or the Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area for a taste of what the area has to offer.

Unfortunately, this great location comes with a cost. First, its isolated placement limits the amenites available. Second, competition for housing has driven real estate prices beyond the means of many of the locals. To put it in terms of hard numbers, the median home price of $233,300 compared to a median income of $46,144.

Tukwila, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 20,196
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $315,000 (6worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (17th worst)
More on Tukwila:  Data | Photos

A sluggish economy and high housing costs haunt this southern suburb of Seattle. Despite the nearby city (a 15-minute drive takes you to the heart of the action), opportunities remain spotty in Tukwila. As a result, the unemployment rate sits at 7.6%.

This lack of jobs hasn't stopped financial pressures from Seattle from impacting real estate prices. The median home price in Tukwila comes to $315,000, a difficult mortgage to cover when the median income runs a level of $58,097.

Still, Tukwila has a lot to offer. Check out the Museum of Flight to get a hint at the attractions in town.

Aberdeen, WA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 16,456
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $124,300 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (18th worst)
More on Aberdeen:  Data | Photos

Aberdeen served as the birthplace of tragic rock star Kurt Cobain. Now that you know that bit of trivia, is it surprising that the place gets a little depressing?

Dependant on the timber and fishing industries, this coastal town in the northwest part of the state supports a lackluster economy. An elevated unemployment rate and a sluggish median income leaves nearly a quarter of the population below the poverty line. There are also issues related to high crime rates and underperforming schools.

Still, not everything in town calls for a Nirvana soundtrack. There are lots of parks, lovely waterfront scenary, and the Aberdeen Art Center. And, yes, you can head over to the Kurt Cobain Under the Bridge Memorial.

Union Gap, WA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 6,163
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $107,800 (worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (36th worst)
More on Union Gap:  Data | Photos

Sitting along I-82 in the south-central part of the state, Union Gap sits near the Yakima Indian Reservation. This makes it a key travel stopover, as well as a local cultural center, with attractions like the Central Washington Agricultural Museum.

Unfortunately, Union Gap is also the site of crippling poverty. About a quarter of the town's 6,163 residents get by below the poverty line. As you might guess, this limited tax base also impacts civil services. Crime runs almost 300% above the national averages and the local schools can't score better than a 6/10 on Great Schools.

Centralia, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 17,216
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $157,300 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.0% (14th 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.

Hoquiam, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,495
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $110,900 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (34th worst)
More on Hoquiam:  Data | Photos

Grays Harbor is a rough spot. It's like the biker bar of coastal waterways in the Pacific Northwest. Three cities along the harbor make this list, including Hoquiam. This suburb of Aberdeen suffers from a weak economy, housing issues, and a high crime rate.

Let's look at the economy. The community supports a median income of $45,667 and a poverty rate of 14.6%. Safety concerns also weigh on the region, with a crime rate more than 30% the national average.

Despite these issues, Hoquiam still provides its benefits. A beautiful view, tons of parks, and a smattering of local history.

Moses Lake, WA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 23,056
Rank Last Year: 32 (Up 24)
Median Home Value: $164,700 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (37th worst)
More on Moses Lake:  Data | Photos

Moses Lake sits along its namesake body of water in the middle of the state. Isolated from other major metropolitan areas, this town of 23,056 people represents an important regional center.

With the lake and the surrounding countryside (the Moses Lake Mud Flats and Sand Dunes are also nearby), it's a gorgeous place to live. Well, gorgeous to look at. The living part is kind of hard.

The trouble largely comes from area's economy, which leaves 11.9% of the population below the poverty line. Also, home prices make it difficult for many locals to make rent. The median home value sits at $164,700, compared to a median income of $51,272.

Chehalis, WA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 7,497
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $182,000 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (5th worst)
More on Chehalis:  Data | Photos

Chehalis started life as a railroad town. Now, it straddles I-5, on the road between Portland, Oregon, and the state capital of Olympia. That makes it a good spot to pump some gas and maybe grab a little fast food on your way out of town. But you might not want to stay very long.

The problem? Well, the economy in Chehalis leaves a lot to be desired, with an unemployment rate of 9.9%. At the same time, the crime rate tracks at more than double the U.S. standard.

There are some things to do in Chehalis. Head over to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum to get a glimpse of those original railroad days.

Fife, WA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 10,096
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $288,500 (55th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (70th worst)
More on Fife:  Data | Photos

This suburb of Tacoma is located within the Puyallup Indian Reservation. Bucking the trend of most of the towns on this list, Fife actually supports a strong economy, with an unemployment rate of just 4.5% and a respectable $66,144 in median income.

So how did this thriving community end up as one of the worst locations in Washington? Two words: crime and affordability. The cost of living in the area runs 30% above the U.S. norm. Services, groceries and health care are all significantly more expensive than other parts of the state. The median home price comes in at $288,500.

How we determined the worst places to live in Washington for 2021

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 2021.

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

  1. Lake Forest Park (Pop. 13,430)
  2. Sammamish (Pop. 64,674)
  3. Mercer Island (Pop. 25,675)

For more Washington reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Washington?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Shelton 10,167 7.6% $162,700
2 Ocean Shores 5,975 6.5% $233,300
3 Tukwila 20,196 7.6% $315,000
4 Aberdeen 16,456 7.6% $124,300
5 Union Gap 6,163 6.0% $107,800
6 Centralia 17,216 8.0% $157,300
7 Hoquiam 8,495 6.0% $110,900
8 Moses Lake 23,056 6.0% $164,700
9 Chehalis 7,497 9.9% $182,000
10 Fife 10,096 4.5% $288,500

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.

34 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2021

  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 spotcrime.com 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.

  25. WOW!!! Talk about an entertaining half-hour….I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We have our house up for sale in a lovely little town in central Washington and have found it to be brimmed full of wonderful, good, christian people. Some are on Welfare, many retired, some struggling with wayward children and drugs. But, it is a lovely place for us. However, I think we will be looking to move out of Washington….taxes and politics are destroying all the good that God has brought here….including some great people. Most of you were right….the negative that abounds, is suffocating the good. Latter-day prophecies fulfilled daily…. rae

  26. I enjoyed the article. I’ve lived in western Washington all my life. Just don’t count on seeing the space needle in Lakewood wa. Lol.

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