Best Cities for Young Families in Washington

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best cities for families in Washington

For young families searching for a place to call home, Washington’s King County is truly at the top.

When NerdWallet analyzed the factors to find the most affordable, family friendly cities in the Pacific Northwest, eight of the top 10 are in King County, home of Seattle. The county is the most populous in the Evergreen State and its residents are the most educated. At least 46% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with the state average of 31%, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data.

In our study, we looked at three factors that drive one of life’s biggest decisions: Where should I raise my family?

  1. Public school excellence. For school quality, we gathered GreatSchools data, which compares students’ test scores and other statewide data and ranks schools on a 1-10 scale, with 10 as the highest rating.
  2. Home affordability. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, we weighed median home values and monthly homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Places with more affordable homes had higher scores.
  3. Growth and prosperity. We assessed a place’s economy using census figures that detailed median household incomes from 2012, and long-term income growth since 1999.

Our analysis revealed certain trends:

  • Seattle suburbs are hot. Beyond just the top 10 places on our list, 12 of the top 20 cities are in King County, where Seattle is the county seat.
  • Education is exceptionally strong. All but one of the top 10 cities has a GreatSchools rating of 9, and none in the top 20 had a ranking below 7. Perhaps the bigger picture, though, is that 56 of 82 places we surveyed in the state were rated at 6 or higher.
  • The outdoors are great. Many of the top cities have access to the state’s natural beauty — from the mountains to Puget Sound, which helps explain the high median home values in the area.

NerdWallet crunched the data for 82 places in Washington — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 10,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.

Best Cities for Young Families in Washington

1. Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie has the best kind of ups and downs —the city’s rate of growth is sky high while Snoqualmie Falls offers the sights and sounds that only a waterfall can bring. From 1999 to 2012, residents in this quiet village saw their household income grow 131%, the biggest growth in the state, after an even larger population increase. The award-winning school district continues to grow, too, with an increased enrollment of nearly 2% each year in the past two decades, according to the district’s website. Snoqualmie, a strong retail, residential and eco-conscious community about 30 miles from Seattle, is a place to call home that is also close to industrial centers.

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2. West Richland

West Richland, in the state’s southeast, is home to the most affordable housing on our list, with a median home value of $193,400, and median homeownership costs of $1,508. The community in the Tri-Cities region, which includes Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, has experienced considerable growth in the past decade, from businesses to the upcoming addition of the school district’s 10th elementary school. When it comes to recreation, Flat Top Park provides a central location for families to relax, watch concerts and enjoy seasonal events such as the Harvest Festival in September.

3. Maple Valley

With parks bordering the city and the Lake Wilderness Park close to its heart, it’s no surprise that the outdoors are a special place for Maple Valley residents. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education recognized schools in the city as Green Ribbon Schools for their environmental education and advocacy. Organizations that support Lake Wilderness Park, golfing and the creative arts are among the ways residents get involved in their community.

4. Covington

Covington is home to a strong retail sector with affordable homes that include a view of Mount Rainier, Washington’s highest peak. Its thriving downtown is a shopping destination, and the city received the Municipal Excellence Award for its economic development in 2012. The Kent School District provides a quality public education and the nearby Green River Community College offers classes for everyone else. For fun, the Covington Aquatic Center features classes and programs for families, and the Covington Days Festival comes around every July.

5. Anacortes

Anacortes, a small city on an island about 80 miles north of Seattle, is a destination for recreational boaters and commercial fishermen and tourists, who use the state ferry system to travel to the San Juan Islands and British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Other attractions include Washington Park and the downtown core on Commercial Avenue, and affordable homes and good schools are also a big draw. Monthly homeownership costs tend to be middle of the road, with a median cost of $1,776 in 2012. The award-winning school district features a rigorous curriculum with well-educated teachers: at least 79% have a master’s degree.

6. Sammamish

Bordered by Lake Sammamish, this city with rural roots has grown into a thriving suburb about 25 miles east of Seattle. With its plaza and parks, the Sammamish Commons area offers acres of wetlands and hiking trails, along with golf courses and festivals such as Shakespeare in the Park. With highly rated public schools from elementary through 12th grade and its location, Sammamish housing costs — the median home value is $589,000 — are higher than other cities in our top 10.

7. Redmond

As home to Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond offers a world-renowned business sector set in a convenient location about 16 miles from Seattle. Redmond’s Marymoor Park, the most popular park in King County, ranges over 640 acres with space for festivals, sports, picnics, concerts and biking on trails or at the Marymoor Velodrome, the only track in the state for competitive bicycle racing. The city earns top marks in other ways, too, especially when it comes to education: In 2013, the school district made the AP District Honor Roll.

8. Kenmore

The dense forest is part of Kenmore’s thriving community located on Lake Washington’s northeast. The city offers a variety of recreational pursuits for outdoor lovers — from bike trails to summer concerts. Recently, the city started planning an eco-friendly and walkable town square in the heart of downtown. Schools are in bloom as well, with the opening of the new North Creek High School slated for fall 2017.

9. Issaquah

With the nickname “Trailhead City,” this suburb east of Seattle boasts nearby mountains and lakes, but it’s more than a hiking destination. Costco, the third-largest retailer in the U.S. in 2014, has its headquarters here, and perhaps more noteworthy, the city is in the middle of a new urban direction. Apartment complexes are in the works, and the community wants to become a source of urban agriculture with more gardens and local produce. When it comes to education, Issaquah’s class of 2014 achieved the nation’s seventh-highest composite score on the ACT.

10. Woodinville

As it evolved from a village to a city in the past half century, Woodinville has held onto the charm of a small town even as it grows and welcomes more businesses and schools to the area. The area’s strong schools continue to expand, too, with Woodinville High School in the middle of major renovations that have added a performing arts wing, and a technology and special education building to open in 2017. Woodinville also boasts a wine country with more than 110 wineries, including the state’s oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and a booming wine tourism sector.

Check out this interactive map of our top 10 cities for young families in Washington. Click on each icon to see the place’s overall score.

nerdwallet

City GreatSchools rating Median home value in 2012 Median monthly homeownership costs
in 2012
Median household income in 2012 Median income growth from 1999 to 2012 Overall score
1 Snoqualmie 9 450,600 2,979 121,791 131.12% 73.13
2 West Richland 8 193,400 1,508 82,969 43.67% 66.21
3 Maple Valley 9 319,900 2,296 98,604 46.82% 65.82
4 Covington 9 297,500 2,188 92,023 44.44% 65.76
5 Anacortes 9 331,800 1,776 59,857 42.75% 62.91
6 Sammamish 9 589,000 2,867 143,861 41.61% 61.93
7 Redmond 9 456,500 2,421 96,088 43.98% 61.31
8 Kenmore 9 397,900 2,328 83,906 35.87% 60.40
9 Issaquah 9 444,900 2,548 87,074 50.41% 60.37
10 Woodinville 9 439,300 2,433 93,045 36.60% 60.20
11 Bothell 9 357,700 2,159 72,157 21.76% 58.83
12 Mukilteo 9 469,500 2,534 91,204 35.47% 58.50
13 Camas 8 315,100 2,127 80,184 33.22% 57.85
14 Newcastle 9 542,400 2,707 106,771 32.93% 57.64
15 Olympia 8 252,900 1,727 53,147 30.12% 57.56
16 Port Orchard 7 269,300 1,868 56,257 65.36% 56.69
17 Lake Forest Park 8 434,500 2,377 100,156 35.07% 56.69
18 Tumwater 7 245,500 1,725 61,264 41.39% 55.61
19 Vashon 8 439,100 1,890 74,913 28.58% 55.29
20 Bainbridge Island 9 580,200 2,660 92,558 32.02% 55.01

Methodology

The score for each place is from the following data:

  1. Public schools made up 33.3% of the score. We used data from GreatSchools, which the nonprofit calculates by averaging the overall rating for each school in the city.
  2. Median home values were 16.7% of the score. The information is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 ACS, data set DP04.
  3. Monthly homeowner costs were 16.7% of the score. The figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 ACS, data set DP04.
  4. Median household incomes were 16.7% of the score. We used the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 ACS, data set DP03.
  5. Income change from 1999 to 2012 was 16.7% of the score. The information is from the U.S. Census Bureau data sets P053 and DP03.

NerdWallet crunched the data for 82 places — cities, towns and census-designated places — in Washington. Only places with over 10,000 residents were analyzed. We excluded areas that lacked GreatSchools ratings, median household incomes from 1999 and median home values in 2012.

 

City GreatSchools rating Median home values in 2012 Median monthly homeownership costs in 2012 Median household income in 2012 Median income growth from 1999 to 2012 Overall score
1 Snoqualmie 9 450,600 2,979 121,791 131.12% 73.13
2 West Richland 8 193,400 1,508 82,969 43.67% 66.21
3 Maple Valley 9 319,900 2,296 98,604 46.82% 65.82
4 Covington 9 297,500 2,188 92,023 44.44% 65.76
5 Anacortes 9 331,800 1,776 59,857 42.75% 62.91
6 Sammamish 9 589,000 2,867 143,861 41.61% 61.93
7 Redmond 9 456,500 2,421 96,088 43.98% 61.31
8 Kenmore 9 397,900 2,328 83,906 35.87% 60.40
9 Issaquah 9 444,900 2,548 87,074 50.41% 60.37
10 Woodinville 9 439,300 2,433 93,045 36.60% 60.20
11 Bothell 9 357,700 2,159 72,157 21.76% 58.83
12 Mukilteo 9 469,500 2,534 91,204 35.47% 58.50
13 Camas 8 315,100 2,127 80,184 33.22% 57.85
14 Newcastle 9 542,400 2,707 106,771 32.93% 57.64
15 Olympia 8 252,900 1,727 53,147 30.12% 57.56
16 Port Orchard 7 269,300 1,868 56,257 65.36% 56.69
17 Lake Forest Park 8 434,500 2,377 100,156 35.07% 56.69
18 Tumwater 7 245,500 1,725 61,264 41.39% 55.61
19 Vashon 8 439,100 1,890 74,913 28.58% 55.29
20 Bainbridge Island 9 580,200 2,660 92,558 32.02% 55.01
21 Kirkland 8 464,200 2,431 86,656 43.63% 54.96
22 Shoreline 8 352,000 2,181 66,160 28.07% 54.06
23 Battle Ground 7 227,900 1,665 57,520 27.62% 54.01
24 Port Angeles 7 210,600 1,329 41,157 24.23% 53.78
25 Pullman 8 227,000 1,514 24,125 16.82% 53.66
26 Mill Creek 8 415,700 2,546 89,124 27.86% 53.53
27 Bonney Lake 7 273,400 2,052 77,432 28.45% 53.45
28 Richland 6 194,400 1,478 68,744 29.48% 52.98
29 Washougal 6 238,200 1,789 61,322 58.38% 52.88
30 East Wenatchee 6 223,500 1,453 51,841 48.46% 52.68
31 Renton 7 299,500 2,061 64,482 40.73% 52.66
32 Lynden 7 284,400 1,592 54,129 26.57% 52.63
33 Cheney 7 179,000 1,386 28,478 26.05% 52.59
34 Bellevue 8 541,600 2,563 88,073 41.28% 52.32
35 Mercer Island 10 880,700 3,755 127,360 38.58% 52.00
36 Silverdale 7 286,900 1,814 60,176 24.94% 51.79
37 Spokane 6 164,500 1,286 42,274 30.99% 51.36
38 Lake Stevens 7 262,700 1,966 71,224 9.19% 50.79
39 Graham 6 237,900 1,852 70,169 32.84% 50.30
40 University Place 7 291,500 1,964 59,685 18.69% 49.84
41 Lacey 6 231,700 1,744 58,963 34.47% 49.78
42 Ferndale 6 243,100 1,622 49,836 37.01% 49.37
43 Ellensburg 6 201,500 1,443 28,114 40.33% 48.84
44 Kelso 6 132,100 1,273 33,829 13.82% 48.68
45 Arlington 6 255,000 1,885 61,817 33.51% 48.65
46 Enumclaw 6 251,600 1,826 58,440 33.36% 48.61
47 Oak Harbor 6 230,000 1,751 48,809 33.21% 48.19
48 Tukwila 7 262,900 1,794 43,333 6.42% 47.62
49 Puyallup 6 270,400 1,909 61,232 29.54% 47.55
50 Mountlake Terrace 6 275,200 1,771 59,099 25.11% 47.43
51 Kennewick 5 163,700 1,318 51,581 25.16% 46.93
52 Moses Lake 5 166,700 1,278 46,904 28.62% 46.93
53 Spanaway 5 205,500 1,701 63,330 37.05% 46.82
54 Camano 6 336,000 1,826 67,402 24.22% 46.79
55 Sedro-Woolley 5 213,900 1,456 50,486 33.16% 45.88
56 Edmonds 6 394,800 2,163 73,072 36.53% 45.81
57 Walla Walla 5 189,500 1,364 42,032 31.95% 45.65
58 Bellingham 6 289,200 1,646 40,844 25.56% 45.43
59 Everett 6 251,200 1,804 47,491 18.43% 45.24
60 Monroe 5 270,500 1,933 70,283 39.48% 45.22
61 Centralia 5 161,400 1,230 34,777 15.62% 43.92
62 Bremerton 5 208,200 1,565 40,644 31.32% 43.70
63 Lynnwood 6 300,800 1,890 49,839 16.41% 43.67
64 Auburn 5 255,900 1,918 54,329 38.57% 43.29
65 Mount Vernon 5 229,700 1,668 48,029 26.40% 42.94
66 Yakima 4 157,200 1,246 40,569 37.64% 42.90
67 Seattle 6 441,000 2,320 63,470 38.77% 42.77
68 Aberdeen 4 119,700 1,219 39,872 29.95% 42.77
69 Vancouver 5 215,500 1,616 49,271 18.39% 42.69
70 Kent 5 278,300 1,979 58,477 27.00% 41.45
71 Des Moines 5 275,200 2,000 60,989 24.54% 41.41
72 Wenatchee 4 214,500 1,384 46,908 34.42% 41.23
73 Marysville 4 247,600 1,890 65,627 39.37% 40.57
74 Lakewood 5 234,800 1,731 42,241 15.98% 40.24
75 Pasco 3 151,700 1,264 49,220 42.50% 40.00
76 Tacoma 4 230,100 1,746 50,439 33.16% 38.92
77 Longview 4 183,200 1,375 40,660 15.61% 38.58
78 Sunnyside 3 117,300 1,122 32,961 19.50% 36.31
79 Federal Way 4 263,900 1,890 57,583 16.85% 36.08
80 Grandview 3 123,200 1,213 37,885 16.25% 35.86
81 SeaTac 3 243,000 1,777 49,414 19.93% 31.77
82 Burien 3 291,000 1,933 50,595 21.69% 30.13

 

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington, image via Shutterstock.