11 Affordable Places to Live in the Pacific Northwest

published Jun 10, 2020
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If you’re drawn to the West Coast but can’t stomach the cost of living in cities like LA and San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest is a region you shouldn’t ignore. Defined by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Cascade and Rocky Mountains on the other, the unofficial boundaries of the area include Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, though some people count a swath of Idaho, Wyoming, and parts of Canada.

Newcomers and visitors alike fall in love with the region’s dramatic coastline, snow capped mountains, lush forests, and U.S. National Parks, as well as the vibrant and cosmopolitan cities of Seattle and Portland. 

Although the high-demand housing markets of Portland and Seattle have median home values of nearly $500,000 and nearly $800,000, respectively, transplants are pleased to find other nearby cities and states with median home values of $350,000 and under, with many of the same amenities and features. Ahead, find 11 affordable cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest.

Eureka, California

A port city in Northern California flanked by towering Redwood tree forests and cradled by Humboldt Bay, Eureka has a lot of natural beauty to offer residents. Located nearly five hours north from San Francisco, Eureka’s median home value of $301,687 is significantly less than its Silicon Valley counterpart.

The former mill town is a state historic landmark with its Victorian era Old Town district, where hundreds of Victorian homes are preserved. And just minutes from the downtown area is the Sequoia Park Zoo, the oldest zoo in California. 

The Eureka City School district is the largest in the region and the nearby College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University provide a hint of college-town culture. 

Lakewood, Washington

A suburb of Tacoma, Lakewood is a peaceful community known for its plentiful parks and lakes. With a population of 60,538 people and a total of 14 parks consisting of more than 540 acres, the community boasts plenty of open space and fresh air for those craving more nature. 

Just over an hour away, Mt. Rainier National Park makes for an exciting day trip. Even closer to home is the Thornewood Castle estate, a 500-year-old Tudor Gothic home that was brought over from England and rebuilt on this historic site in Lakewood. 

Richland, Washington

A city in the Southeastern part of Washington State, Richland is at the confluence of three rivers: The Snake, Yakima, and Columbia Rivers. Because of this, it’s dubbed as one of the Tri-Cities in Washington with endless opportunities for water and nature recreation. The area is also at the heart of the state’s wine country, with more than 200 wineries within a one-hour radius.

Although an otherwise quiet city, Richland has a fascinating backstory in its role as one of the federal government’s giant plutonium and uranium production sites to build atomic weapons during World War II.

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Tacoma, Washington

Although Seattle’s current median home value is at $752,187, homebuyers can enjoy much more affordable living costs about an hour away in Tacoma, Wash. It’s conveniently located just 20 minutes away from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is easily accessible from downtown Seattle. 

Renowned glass artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly has left behind his rich legacy in the form of the Museum of Glass, where many of his works are featured. Following in his footsteps is a vibrant community of local writers, musicians, and artists. 

Situated on the banks of the Puget Sound, Tacoma has many beaches with majestic views of the snow capped Mt. Rainier, as well as waterfront districts buzzing with lively restaurants and bars. 

Salem, Oregon

Oregon’s capital city, Salem, is centrally located—it’s 47 miles south of Portland and an hour from the Cascade Mountains. Salem blends nature and modernity seamlessly with several parks in walking distance from the city’s shopping district and historic downtown area. 

With 21 percent of its population speaking a language other than English at home, Salem has a rich cultural scene which includes the Instituto de Cultura Oregoniana and the annual World Beat Festival. Recent city data reports 27.5 percent of the population is aged 19 or younger, and 87.19 percent of the population has a high school degree or higher. 

Eugene, Oregon

As Oregon’s second largest city, Eugene spans approximately 41.5 square miles with the jagged Spencer Butte visible from many parts of it. Eugene’s residents enjoy natural recreational activities nearly year-round with its mild winters and average temperature of 53 degrees. 

Home to the University of Oregon, one-third of the city’s population has completed four or more years of higher education. In early 2010, the city established its slogan to “A Great City for the Arts & Outdoors.”

Albany, Oregon

A long way south from Portland, Albany is located in the middle of the fertile Willamette Valley. Health foodies and agriculture enthusiasts can revel in local crops like corn, beans, mint, hazelnuts, and grass seed, whether it be at farmer’s markets or farm-to-table restaurants. Oenophiles can sample award-winning wines at any of the several vineyards an hour’s drive away from Albany, while taking in the mountainous countryside. 

And with 29 local parks and cultural highlights such as the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum, antique shops, and over 700 historic buildings, Albany is more than just quiet farmland. 

Boise, Idaho

Boise is a rapidly growing city which saw 80,000 new Idaho residents in 2016. Nearly 21 percent of those newbies were from California. 

Like many Pacific Northwest metropolitan areas, residents enjoy the best of both worlds with outdoor recreation such as hiking and skiing, and cosmopolitan activities such as enjoying craft cocktails and upscale cuisine. 

Perhaps what is most unexpected about Boise is that it’s home to one of the most vibrant and concentrated Basque populations in the U.S. The “Basque Block” in downtown Boise features restaurants, a mural, and a museum and cultural center that showcases Basque culture and cuisine. 

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Livingston, Montana

Located on the banks of the Yellowstone River, Livingston, Mont., residents can enjoy the geological wonders of Yellowstone National Park, the country’s first national park, in an hour. Livingston is surrounded by three mountain ranges, with plenty of skiing, river rafting, horseback riding, and other outdoor sports available. 

With a population of nearly 8,000 residents, Livingston can certainly feel like a small town, but residents enjoy big city amenities such as fine dining, museums, and breweries. Livingston’s population is quite homogenous however; the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 95.6 percent of the population is white

Cheyenne, Wyoming

The capital city of Wyoming, Cheyenne embraces its Old West origins, hosting the world’s largest rodeo, and housing the Frontier Days Old West Museum. 

The nearby Pole Mountain and Curt Gowdy State Park provide year-round outdoor recreational activities with bike and hiking paths in the summer, and snowshoeing and cross country skiing trails in the winter. 

Along Cheyenne’s Sloan Lake are beach-like shores where residents fish, bike, or canoe with their families and friends. Closer to town, the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens feature a landscaped labyrinth while collections at the Wyoming State Museum boast dinosaur fossils. 

Cody, Wyoming

Located 52 miles from Yellowstone National Park, Cody’s geological formations provide a dramatic entrance to the park’s eastern portion. At the western edge of Cody, a deep canyon formed by the Shoshone River provides entryway to Yellowstone. 

Overlooking Cody are the Rattlesnake and Cedar Mountains on its north and south side, respectively. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is a modern facility located near the center of the city. It contains five museums showcasing the art, history and artifacts of the old American West including Native American heritage and cowboy culture.