These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2018

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

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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
  3. Union Gap
  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.

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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.

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1. Shelton

Shelton, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 9,832
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $150,400 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.6% (14th worst)
While numbers in Washington are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Washington cities against one another, you see big differences.

Home values in Shelton average $150,400, which is the 16th lowest in the state. Say what you want about ‘cheap living,’ the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Shelton.

Plus, 2430.0% of the population here lives below the poverty line.

Plus, the crime rate is the 22nd highest in the state here. Every year, when you’re within Shelton city limits, you have a 1 in 16.4 chance of being robbed. That’s a lot of broken into cars and homes.

2. Kelso

Population: 11,871
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $120,700 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.7% (3rd worst)
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

Population: 6,125
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Home Values: $93,700 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (80th worst)
Union Gap is the 4th most dangerous place in the state of Washington. That’s part of the reason it’s the 3rd worst place in Washington.

The fact remains, that when you’re within Union Gap city limits, you have a 1 in 8.5 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?

Did you know Union Gap also has the 80th highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.7%? Or that homes are only valued at $93,700?

Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s little demand to live in Union Gap.

4. Centralia

Centralia, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 16,729
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Home Values: $148,900 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (23rd worst)
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

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 16,335
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Values: $120,200 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (28th worst)
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)
Most of the rest of the cities on this list deserve to be on here due to their high crime numbers. Airway Heights is the 6th most dangerous city in Washington, according to the FBI. Residents had a 1 in 12.8 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That’s really high for Washington, but not even the highest in the state.

Home values are the 17th cheapest in the state, and income levels are almost as low as you can get. Households in Airway Heights bring in just under $42,014 a year annually.

7. Hoquiam

Hoquiam, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 8,434
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Values: $96,600 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (4th worst)
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Washington, Hoquiam came in 7th. Let’s see why.

When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Washington residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Washington, you can see some really big differences. In Hoquiam, the number of people out of work is 13.2%

In Washington, that’s the 4th highest in the state.

The residents in Hoquiam have the 11th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Hoquiam average $37,628 a year. Which isn’t too shabby in comparison to the other ‘lowest’ income cities in most other states.

Additionally, the homes are valued at $96,600 on average. That’s the 2nd lowest in the state.

8. Toppenish

Toppenish, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 8,977
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 3)
Home Values: $114,100 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (20th worst)
Toppenish places 8th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Washington.

You can imagine it’s a pretty simple life down there. Which is fine, unless you look closely at the data.

Homes are the 4th cheapest in the state, and at $114,100, just about anyone with a pulse can buy a home here. However, the unemployment rate (9.7%) is the 20th highest in Washington, and income levels are far below the state average. And 3410.0% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Would you have guessed that the area around Toppenish has one of the highest crime rates, per capita in Washington?

9. Tukwila

Tukwila, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 19,878
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Values: $248,600 (65th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (47th worst)
When you’re looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Tukwila is the 9th worst place in the state of Washington.

The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Tukwila is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Tukwila are the 65th lowest in the entire state.

And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can’t get much worse in Washington.

10. Quincy

Quincy, Washington

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 7,248
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 5)
Home Values: $133,500 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (6th worst)
There are some bad places to live and some really, really bad places to live. According to the data, Quincy is one of the worst places you can live in Washington. And quite possibly, one of the worst places you can live in, period. Let’s see why.

We’re not economists, but when you have a 12.8% unemployment rate for a city of 7,248 people, that’s a sign that things aren’t just bad. They are downright depressing.

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

City Rank Previous Rank Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
Shelton 1 1 9,832 10.6% $150,400
Kelso 2 2 11,871 14.7% $120,700
Union Gap 3 3 6,125 5.7% $93,700
Centralia 4 9 16,729 9.5% $148,900
Aberdeen 5 6 16,335 8.6% $120,200
Airway Heights 6 23 6,523 9.9% $150,800
Hoquiam 7 4 8,434 13.2% $96,600
Toppenish 8 11 8,977 9.7% $114,100
Tukwila 9 8 19,878 7.4% $248,600
Quincy 10 5 7,248 12.8% $133,500
Yakima 11 12 93,338 10.0% $158,400
Grandview 12 14 11,098 16.0% $124,400
Wapato 13 7 5,062 13.0% $111,200
Burlington 14 17 8,572 9.0% $187,700
Sedro-Woolley 15 22 11,225 9.6% $178,100
Clarkston 16 15 7,314 9.6% $127,500
Longview 17 21 36,720 11.5% $161,800
Moses Lake 18 25 21,846 8.0% $144,900
Chehalis 19 13 7,340 6.6% $168,000
Fife 20 18 9,645 7.5% $229,100
Seatac 21 10 28,298 6.4% $246,100
Port Angeles 22 29 19,420 11.0% $188,300
Lakewood 23 24 59,489 10.8% $218,600
Bremerton 24 26 39,388 8.7% $178,600
Yelm 25 16 8,066 12.3% $202,500
Sunnyside 26 20 16,217 7.1% $119,100
Tacoma 27 28 205,602 8.0% $212,400
Mount Vernon 28 27 33,388 8.1% $206,500
Walla Walla 29 33 31,952 8.0% $173,200
Ephrata 30 54 7,980 7.4% $147,100
Everett 31 31 106,580 7.7% $242,200
Auburn 32 34 75,607 7.4% $241,800
Spokane 33 35 212,078 7.6% $160,800
Port Orchard 34 38 13,265 10.1% $256,500
Sequim 35 32 6,736 9.9% $203,400
Cheney 36 42 11,479 11.9% $176,100
Ocean Shores 37 37 5,673 17.7% $181,100
Othello 38 19 7,726 4.4% $148,700
Federal Way 39 40 93,986 6.8% $259,300
Pasco 40 36 68,567 6.8% $166,400
Kent 41 44 125,492 6.8% $262,800
Spokane Valley 42 41 93,322 6.8% $169,900
Connell 43 38 5,414 6.0% $119,600
Sumner 44 48 9,691 5.9% $234,700
Lynnwood 45 55 36,861 5.4% $300,400
Woodland 46 30 5,684 3.6% $193,900
Burien 47 51 50,187 5.8% $290,500
Puyallup 48 53 39,274 7.4% $258,800
Kennewick 49 45 77,975 6.9% $174,500
Vancouver 50 43 169,982 8.1% $217,200
Des Moines 51 56 30,904 6.7% $266,500
Arlington 52 46 18,749 7.4% $244,000
Ellensburg 53 49 18,957 5.5% $206,800
Olympia 54 57 49,608 8.6% $246,100
Pacific 55 50 7,042 8.3% $211,600
Monroe 56 52 17,906 6.2% $261,600
Wenatchee 57 58 33,257 6.2% $208,200
Bellingham 58 60 84,462 7.9% $306,300
Enumclaw 59 67 11,543 6.5% $240,900
Prosser 60 47 5,860 3.6% $158,700
East Wenatchee 61 66 13,589 5.5% $216,300
Marysville 62 64 64,955 7.7% $244,800
Renton 63 65 98,499 5.3% $313,500
Ferndale 64 61 12,666 8.1% $252,600
Snohomish 65 68 9,551 5.4% $290,200
Lacey 66 74 45,644 8.8% $227,900
Pullman 67 77 32,176 11.0% $233,000
Orting 68 59 7,254 6.0% $207,600
Gig Harbor 69 70 8,307 10.7% $347,400
Tumwater 70 61 21,684 6.2% $224,900
Oak Harbor 71 78 22,544 8.0% $226,100
Dupont 72 85 9,224 10.6% $310,600
College Place 73 71 8,996 4.5% $173,100
Battle Ground 74 63 18,987 6.8% $223,000
Bonney Lake 75 76 19,022 6.2% $272,400
Stanwood 76 72 6,685 4.7% $273,000
Washougal 77 69 14,987 7.3% $243,400
Port Townsend 78 73 9,286 5.7% $301,700
Selah 79 86 7,599 4.3% $206,200
Milton 80 92 7,239 5.4% $234,400
Seattle 81 83 668,849 5.1% $484,600
West Richland 82 80 13,407 6.7% $202,200
Richland 83 87 53,227 5.7% $213,000
North Bend 84 89 6,475 7.1% $424,100
Poulsbo 85 79 9,806 4.8% $288,200
University Place 86 82 32,342 7.3% $293,700
Shoreline 87 91 55,021 7.0% $352,200
Lake Stevens 88 75 30,352 5.0% $274,900
Edgewood 89 98 9,862 4.9% $307,800
Anacortes 90 90 16,229 5.7% $327,300
Steilacoom 91 97 6,175 7.4% $295,300
Covington 92 84 19,172 4.8% $271,200
Liberty Lake 93 95 8,566 8.9% $263,000
Mountlake Terrace 94 81 20,747 5.0% $274,900
Ridgefield 95 88 6,112 3.1% $287,600
Bothell 96 96 43,153 6.2% $372,700
Edmonds 97 99 41,020 5.2% $413,000
Fircrest 98 93 6,660 8.5% $282,400
Lynden 99 94 13,204 3.7% $287,200
Kenmore 100 101 21,830 5.2% $427,700

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29 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2018

  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.

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