The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2023

The worst places to live in Washington are Shelton and Chehalis for 2023 based on Friday Night Science.

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 2023

  1. Shelton
  2. Chehalis
  3. Tukwila
  4. Union Gap
  5. Sunnyside
  6. Aberdeen
  7. Fife
  8. Kelso
  9. Airway Heights
  10. SeaTac

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

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

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

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

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

For more Washington reading, check out:

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

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington For 2023

Shelton, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,288
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $208,400
Unemployment Rate: 6.8%
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 24.5% of the town’s 10,288 residents scrape by below the poverty line. Safety, education, and affordability present problems as well.

Chehalis, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,427
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $228,500
Unemployment Rate: 9.8%
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 9.8%. 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.

Tukwila, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 21,545
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $373,200
Unemployment Rate: 7.1%
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 7.1%.

This lack of jobs hasn’t stopped financial pressures from Seattle from impacting real estate prices. The median home price in Tukwila comes to $373,200, a difficult mortgage to cover when the median income runs a level of $71,688.

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

Union Gap, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,499
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $140,200
Unemployment Rate: 9.1%
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 6,499 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.

Sunnyside, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 16,343
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $152,900
Unemployment Rate: 12.7%
More on Sunnyside:  Data | Photos

Aberdeen, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 16,842
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $162,100
Unemployment Rate: 7.1%
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.

Fife, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,869
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 10)
Median Home Value: $337,200
Unemployment Rate: 4.9%
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 4.9% and a respectable $75,557 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 $337,200.

Kelso, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,566
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $201,800
Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
More on Kelso:  Data | Photos

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,108
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $200,300
Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
More on Airway Heights:  Data

Seatac, WA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 30,867
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $364,400
Unemployment Rate: 8.2%
More on Seatac:  Data | Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 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 ten worst cities in Washington.

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

Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.

And in the end, Shelton ranks as the worst city to live in Washington for 2023.

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

  1. Sammamish (Pop. 66,532)
  2. Lake Forest Park (Pop. 13,529)
  3. Mercer Island (Pop. 25,506)

For more Washington reading, check out:

Worst Places To Live In Washington?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Shelton 10,288 6.8% $208,400
2 Chehalis 7,427 9.8% $228,500
3 Tukwila 21,545 7.1% $373,200
4 Union Gap 6,499 9.1% $140,200
5 Sunnyside 16,343 12.7% $152,900
6 Aberdeen 16,842 7.1% $162,100
7 Fife 10,869 4.9% $337,200
8 Kelso 12,566 6.5% $201,800
9 Airway Heights 10,108 6.5% $200,300
10 SeaTac 30,867 8.2% $364,400
11 Toppenish 8,843 8.3% $159,200
12 Centralia 17,988 8.1% $183,200
13 Lakewood 62,972 5.5% $331,500
14 Woodland 6,368 7.0% $275,900
15 Ephrata 8,348 5.5% $175,700
16 Kent 134,890 7.5% $414,200
17 Auburn 85,306 5.0% $393,500
18 Yakima 96,266 7.3% $206,600
19 Burien 51,646 5.7% $459,800
20 Grandview 10,894 4.9% $155,400
21 Federal Way 99,792 5.4% $384,200
22 Burlington 9,220 5.3% $304,600
23 Tacoma 217,332 5.0% $347,100
24 Sumner 10,545 5.0% $390,700
25 Prosser 6,061 12.6% $210,100
26 Des Moines 32,631 8.3% $416,500
27 Bremerton 43,345 5.7% $306,700
28 Puyallup 42,366 6.0% $387,800
29 Hoquiam 8,700 10.0% $135,900
30 Pasco 76,398 5.9% $250,500
31 Vancouver 188,331 5.5% $343,900
32 Port Angeles 19,888 6.0% $253,000
33 Moses Lake 24,764 4.5% $205,100
34 Sultan 5,208 4.8% $315,900
35 Ocean Shores 6,637 3.9% $267,700
36 Port Orchard 15,315 3.9% $377,700
37 Yelm 10,205 4.9% $315,400
38 Clarkston 7,164 8.4% $157,300
39 Everett 110,438 5.0% $394,900
40 Longview 37,542 5.2% $239,100
41 Mount Vernon 34,824 4.9% $334,700
42 Kennewick 83,082 4.8% $262,400
43 Othello 8,470 9.3% $206,300
44 Lynnwood 38,812 4.0% $492,600
45 Spokane 225,709 6.2% $236,300
46 Ellensburg 19,215 10.4% $261,500
47 Sedro-Woolley 12,266 4.5% $298,100
48 Walla Walla 33,765 6.6% $262,600
49 Spokane Valley 102,178 5.6% $250,500
50 Cheney 12,743 12.0% $239,500
51 Sequim 7,896 5.2% $252,900
52 Olympia 54,579 6.4% $355,100
53 Renton 105,313 3.9% $474,700
54 Snohomish 10,091 7.9% $435,500
55 Arlington 19,832 3.7% $372,600
56 Blaine 5,773 9.7% $369,500
57 Pacific 7,130 2.3% $331,200
58 Quincy 7,630 3.6% $216,000
59 Bellingham 90,545 5.1% $440,300
60 Milton 8,501 4.7% $359,400
61 Tumwater 24,855 6.9% $343,300
62 DuPont 9,974 4.9% $385,500
63 Lacey 52,572 5.8% $310,600
64 Richland 59,718 4.7% $311,000
65 North Bend 7,393 3.3% $692,800
66 College Place 9,739 7.6% $249,800
67 Orting 8,781 5.4% $336,300
68 Washougal 16,664 8.4% $376,000
69 Seattle 726,054 4.3% $767,500
70 Wenatchee 35,086 3.1% $296,800
71 Monroe 19,879 3.2% $432,600
72 Lynden 15,410 5.3% $394,600
73 Ferndale 14,777 3.8% $366,200
74 Bonney Lake 22,229 2.1% $396,700
75 Buckley 5,098 2.4% $415,500
76 Covington 20,608 3.3% $434,500
77 Selah 8,081 3.3% $270,000
78 Port Townsend 10,002 11.5% $372,600
79 Mountlake Terrace 21,210 3.2% $451,900
80 East Wenatchee 14,113 4.3% $314,100
81 Enumclaw 12,544 4.9% $358,000
82 Marysville 69,957 4.6% $384,000
83 Battle Ground 20,536 4.2% $344,700
84 Ridgefield 10,432 5.2% $450,700
85 Oak Harbor 24,267 7.2% $329,500
86 Gig Harbor 11,505 1.3% $574,600
87 Poulsbo 11,652 4.9% $420,800
88 Liberty Lake 11,647 7.6% $361,000
89 Edmonds 42,622 4.4% $639,100
90 Anacortes 17,437 4.3% $484,600
91 Edgewood 12,132 1.0% $484,700
92 Lake Stevens 35,135 5.3% $425,500
93 Pullman 32,968 8.9% $310,800
94 Stanwood 7,776 1.7% $419,000
95 West Richland 15,988 4.1% $322,200
96 Fircrest 7,109 6.1% $406,500
97 Bothell 47,355 4.6% $638,000
98 Shoreline 58,213 4.0% $627,500
99 University Place 34,565 4.1% $430,500
100 Woodinville 13,247 4.0% $770,800

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 2023

  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.

    1. I’m guessing that Chahalis’ population is under 10,000. The list was incorporated from cities with over 10,000 people.

  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.

  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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