These Are The 10 Worst Tacoma Suburbs For 2018

We used science and data to determine which Tacoma suburbs are the real pits.

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Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Tacoma.

So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?

Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Tacoma ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Tacoma area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Tacoma proper, although Mercer Island certainly tries.

Of course, not all suburbs of Tacoma are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…

We examined the 38 biggest suburbs of Tacoma to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Washington lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Tacoma in terms of quality of life.

Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Tacoma for 2018:

  1. Tukwila (Photos)
  2. Bremerton (Photos)
  3. Lakewood (Photos)
  4. Yelm
  5. Fife (Photos)
  6. Pacific (Photos)
  7. Seatac (Photos)
  8. Auburn (Photos)
  9. Port Orchard (Photos)
  10. Olympia (Photos)

Read on to see how we determined the places around Tacoma that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.

Or, if you’re thinking of moving to elsewhere in Washington check out the best places in Washington overall or the worst.

And remember, there are some good places to live around Tacoma too.

Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.

For more Washington reading, check out:

Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Tacoma 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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data, this is the criteria we used:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Low median household incomes
  • Low population density (no things to do)
  • Low home values
  • A lot of high school drop outs
  • High poverty
  • High rate of uninsured families

FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Tacoma.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 6,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 38 suburbs to evaluate around Tacoma.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 38 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.

Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.

And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Tacoma.” We’re lookin’ at you, Tukwila.

Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.

1. Tukwila

Tukwila, Washington

Population: 19,878
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Median Home Price: $248,600
Median Income: $48,490
More on Tukwila: Data | Jobs

We’ll get the ball rolling with Tukwila, the absolute worst place to live around Tacoma according to the data.

And in the world of worst rankings, Tukwila beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 4th worst in the Tacoma area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 15th worst when it comes to home values.

But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Tukwila.

You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.

2. Bremerton

Bremerton, Washington

Source: Public domain

Population: 39,388
Unemployment Rate: 8.7%
Median Home Price: $178,600
Median Income: $47,358
More on Bremerton: Data | Jobs

Welcome to Bremerton. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.

This city is 23.2 miles to Tacoma. Income levels here are the 2nd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $47,358 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.

But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.

3. Lakewood

Lakewood, Washington

Population: 59,489
Unemployment Rate: 10.8%
Median Home Price: $218,600
Median Income: $45,261
More on Lakewood: Data | Jobs

Back up the highway we go for the third worst Tacoma suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Lakewood on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.

In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Tacoma suburbs.

But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.

4. Yelm

Population: 8,066
Unemployment Rate: 12.3%
Median Home Price: $202,500
Median Income: $51,405
More on Yelm: Data | Jobs

If you live in Yelm, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 5th lowest Tacoma suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the 1st worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Tacoma. Remember, we looked at 38 cities for this study.

Yelm is about 23.0 miles to downtown.

5. Fife

Fife, Washington

Population: 9,645
Unemployment Rate: 7.5%
Median Home Price: $229,100
Median Income: $56,871
More on Fife: Data | Jobs

Fife has the distinction of being a Tacoma suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Fife has the 8th lowest home values in the metro Tacoma area, where the median price is $229,100. To put that into perspective, in Mercer Island, the median income is $129,348, which is the best in the area.

Fife has an unemployment rate of 7.5% which ranks 11th worst.

6. Pacific

Pacific, Washington

Population: 7,042
Unemployment Rate: 8.3%
Median Home Price: $211,600
Median Income: $53,301
More on Pacific: Data | Jobs

Pacific has 7,042 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)

Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 11.8%.

7. Seatac

Seatac, Washington

Population: 28,298
Unemployment Rate: 6.4%
Median Home Price: $246,100
Median Income: $48,487
More on SeaTac: Data | Jobs

Ah, SeaTac. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Tacoma.

It’s the place with the 22nd most out of work residents in the Tacoma metro area (6.4%).

8. Auburn

Auburn, Washington

Population: 75,607
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Median Home Price: $241,800
Median Income: $60,262
More on Auburn: Data | Jobs

Auburn is a city about 12.2 miles from Tacoma, but Tacoma probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.

You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Auburn has the 10th most uninsured people, 15th worst incomes, and has the 14th highest unemployment rate (7.4%) in the entire Tacoma metro area.

Homes only cost $241,800 for a reason. That’s cheap for Tacoma standards.

9. Port Orchard

Port Orchard, Washington

Population: 13,265
Unemployment Rate: 10.1%
Median Home Price: $256,500
Median Income: $63,634
More on Port Orchard: Data | Jobs

If you absolutely have to live near Tacoma, then Port Orchard might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Tacoma suburb.

About 10.1% of residents are out of work.

10. Olympia

Olympia, Washington

Population: 49,608
Unemployment Rate: 8.6%
Median Home Price: $246,100
Median Income: $54,523
More on Olympia: Data | Jobs

Rounding out the ten worst Tacoma suburbs to call home is Olympia.

Located 25.2 miles outside the city, Olympias is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 8th highest unemployment rate (8.6%), and poverty is far above the area average.

The areas around Tacoma where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018

Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Tacoma with Tukwila casting itself ahead of the pack.

As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Tacoma aren’t all bad. Mercer Island takes the cake as the best place to live around Tacoma.

For more Washington reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Tacoma Suburbs

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Median Home Price Median Income
1 Tukwila 19,878 7.4% $248,600 $48,490
2 Bremerton 39,388 8.7% $178,600 $47,358
3 Lakewood 59,489 10.8% $218,600 $45,261
4 Yelm 8,066 12.3% $202,500 $51,405
5 Fife 9,645 7.5% $229,100 $56,871
6 Pacific 7,042 8.3% $211,600 $53,301
7 Seatac 28,298 6.4% $246,100 $48,487
8 Auburn 75,607 7.4% $241,800 $60,262
9 Port Orchard 13,265 10.1% $256,500 $63,634
10 Olympia 49,608 8.6% $246,100 $54,523
11 Sumner 9,691 5.9% $234,700 $57,303
12 Enumclaw 11,543 6.5% $240,900 $55,644
13 Burien 50,187 5.8% $290,500 $54,546
14 Kent 125,492 6.8% $262,800 $61,033
15 Des Moines 30,904 6.7% $266,500 $59,948
16 Lacey 45,644 8.8% $227,900 $59,624
17 Federal Way 93,986 6.8% $259,300 $58,855
18 Orting 7,254 6.0% $207,600 $71,981
19 Puyallup 39,274 7.4% $258,800 $64,342
20 Tumwater 21,684 6.2% $224,900 $62,050
21 Gig Harbor 8,307 10.7% $347,400 $64,931
22 Bonney Lake 19,022 6.2% $272,400 $85,975
23 Renton 98,499 5.3% $313,500 $66,050
24 Milton 7,239 5.4% $234,400 $66,744
25 Steilacoom 6,175 7.4% $295,300 $67,500
26 University Place 32,342 7.3% $293,700 $60,947
27 Dupont 9,224 10.6% $310,600 $76,962
28 Edgewood 9,862 4.9% $307,800 $83,514
29 Fircrest 6,660 8.5% $282,400 $69,278
30 Seattle 668,849 5.1% $484,600 $74,458
31 Covington 19,172 4.8% $271,200 $88,806
32 Normandy Park 6,598 4.1% $484,700 $89,425
33 Bellevue 136,718 5.0% $608,500 $100,703
34 Issaquah 34,728 5.1% $477,200 $92,071
35 Maple Valley 25,093 7.5% $312,600 $98,925
36 Bainbridge Island 23,576 3.9% $569,700 $102,906
37 Newcastle 11,189 4.8% $579,600 $111,955
38 Mercer Island 24,467 4.6% $956,200 $129,348

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.


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