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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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
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
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
Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
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
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
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
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
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
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
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
Unemployment Rate: 8.0%
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
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
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
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
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
Unemployment Rate: 9.9%
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
Unemployment Rate: 4.5%
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
11 Toppenish 8,873 10.1% $130,100
12 Auburn 80,134 4.9% $327,200
13 Wapato 5,041 14.6% $112,400
14 Kelso 12,123 8.6% $148,100
15 Ephrata 8,072 8.0% $162,900
16 Lakewood 60,111 6.7% $269,200
17 Burlington 8,881 7.0% $240,800
18 Sunnyside 16,559 8.1% $129,400
19 Airway Heights 8,560 5.8% $174,900
20 SeaTac 29,019 6.0% $321,300
21 Blaine 5,313 9.1% $334,000
22 Bremerton 40,631 6.5% $238,600
23 Federal Way 96,526 5.6% $328,800
24 Sumner 10,053 5.8% $333,000
25 Quincy 7,646 9.3% $153,500
26 Port Angeles 19,832 7.4% $217,100
27 Port Orchard 14,062 6.0% $324,200
28 Kent 131,118 5.5% $346,400
29 Connell 5,517 13.0% $128,200
30 Yakima 93,413 6.3% $173,000
31 Grandview 11,116 8.8% $145,400
32 Tacoma 212,869 5.2% $277,900
33 Sequim 7,248 5.8% $238,500
34 Everett 109,766 5.2% $322,700
35 Yelm 8,985 7.0% $255,200
36 Burien 51,477 5.6% $380,300
37 Clarkston 7,381 8.6% $143,000
38 Sedro-Woolley 11,739 5.5% $244,000
39 Longview 37,520 6.5% $190,400
40 Snohomish 9,976 4.5% $366,500
41 Des Moines 31,734 6.0% $359,100
42 Kennewick 81,479 6.0% $215,500
43 Puyallup 40,991 4.4% $329,000
44 Spokane 217,353 5.9% $187,600
45 Mount Vernon 35,026 5.7% $269,100
46 Pasco 72,899 6.2% $199,400
47 Spokane Valley 97,562 5.4% $204,700
48 Othello 8,100 5.7% $164,700
49 Lynnwood 38,143 3.6% $395,300
50 Vancouver 180,556 5.0% $286,500
51 Olympia 51,534 5.3% $297,200
52 Ellensburg 20,167 7.4% $234,000
53 Walla Walla 32,793 4.7% $203,500
54 Ferndale 14,043 5.4% $300,600
55 Prosser 6,202 3.6% $182,900
56 Woodland 6,071 4.2% $252,100
57 Tumwater 22,974 7.1% $286,700
58 Enumclaw 11,879 5.3% $299,000
59 Renton 101,484 3.7% $400,500
60 DuPont 9,435 6.7% $328,900
61 Cheney 12,165 9.7% $203,500
62 Monroe 18,865 4.2% $357,000
63 Arlington 19,483 4.0% $323,200
64 Milton 7,715 4.4% $303,900
65 Sultan 5,166 4.2% $290,800
66 Orting 8,012 6.8% $271,800
67 Bellingham 88,764 6.2% $374,700
68 Port Townsend 9,551 5.4% $338,000
69 Marysville 68,633 4.5% $325,300
70 Lacey 49,248 5.9% $262,500
71 Wenatchee 34,188 3.2% $253,600
72 Gig Harbor 9,854 4.5% $475,400
73 Pacific 7,215 2.3% $281,800
74 College Place 9,182 5.8% $197,200
75 Seattle 724,305 4.1% $663,100
76 Lynden 14,281 3.7% $348,100
77 North Bend 6,983 4.7% $548,900
78 Poulsbo 10,602 5.2% $360,200
79 Oak Harbor 23,089 5.6% $277,500
80 Selah 7,856 3.6% $224,800
81 Battle Ground 20,406 4.5% $282,900
82 Kirkland 89,438 3.3% $662,300
83 Mountlake Terrace 21,210 3.6% $392,600
84 Anacortes 16,977 4.0% $406,400
85 Richland 56,399 4.0% $263,500
86 Pullman 33,598 10.5% $272,400
87 East Wenatchee 13,960 4.0% $274,800
88 Bonney Lake 20,707 2.3% $331,200
89 Shoreline 56,267 3.8% $519,900
90 Liberty Lake 9,836 7.6% $286,200
91 Covington 20,825 2.1% $357,300
92 Edgewood 11,264 3.4% $409,100
93 Bothell 45,749 4.3% $530,300
94 Edmonds 42,040 3.5% $536,900
95 Lake Stevens 32,487 3.8% $356,900
96 University Place 33,326 4.0% $367,200
97 Ridgefield 7,767 1.8% $398,600
98 Stanwood 7,068 2.1% $340,900
99 Issaquah 37,965 4.0% $642,300
100 Normandy Park 6,670 4.4% $635,600

How Is The Area In ?

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.

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.