Fort Lewis Off-Post Housing

Best Places to Live Near Fort Lewis & McChord (JBLM)

August 1, 2021  ·  Becky Newton  ·  Lakewood, WA

As someone proudly serving your country, you understand the value of work and sacrifice. It takes dedication to maintain ongoing military service while caring for a family and leading your community. One thing that shouldn't be so difficult is finding the right place to live while you're stationed here in Washington State. We're going to discuss some of your best options for cities to live in while you're here at JBLM.

If you're looking for Fort Lewis off-post housing, you are probably interested in supportive communities, along with more practical, day-to-day considerations like your commute time, access to resources such as excellent healthcare, shopping, and education, and a city with quality housing options for you and your family.

We'll look at travel time, available services and amenities, and the overall practicality of settling down in various cities that are popular with military members and their families.  Before we talk about where exactly you should live if you're stationed at Ft. Lewis, first, let's talk about one of the challenges every service member wrestles with: whether to buy or rent. The real estate market in Western Washington is white-hot. If you're going to be here for any period of time, it probably makes sense to use the VA loan and your housing stipend to buy so that you can take advantage of the record growth in housing prices going on in this area. But buying in Washington while you're out of state comes with its own unique set of challenges. Here's how to do it right.

Getting Started

Here's a guide by a local real estate agent and relocation expert to help you relocate with ease. The video above will also help you take some of the fear and guesswork out of buying a home while you're out of state.

Now that the home buying part of your mission to the Pacific Northwest is looking a little easier, let's talk about where to live. 

In our hot real estate market, it isn't always easy to find quality JBLM off-posting housing as fast as you might want. Going through the stress, time, and planning it takes to relocate, especially across long distances, is enough on its own to overwhelm you without having to worry if you'll find the right home in a pleasant neighborhood. That's okay; we've got you covered the top 5 best places to live near JBLM. Let’s take a closer look at JBLM and your best choices for JBLM off-post housing.

Cities Near JBLM: Choices for JBLM Off-Post Housing 2021

Nearby cities and towns near JBLM include its proud home, Lakewood Washington, in addition to Tacoma, Lacey, Dupont, Olympia, University Place, Fircrest, Graham, Puyallup, Yelm, Sumner, Fife, and Milton, among others. 

Each one has its own set of perks. The right choice will usually come down to balancing your desire to find an attractive neighborhood, with considerations of budget, commute, and availability.

Best Places to Live Near Fort Lewis

While we could spend lots of time on dozens of our region's cities that offer JBLM off base housing, we're going to focus on a handful of the best choices, namely DuPont, Olympia-Lacey, Tacoma, Puyallup, and your best choice overall, Lakewood Washington.

In the video above, local real estate agent and former Airforce captain Zach Entwistle gives his insights on some of top places to live near Fort Lewis-McChord.  

Lakewood: JBLM’s Proud Hometown

For good reason, our top choice lands on Lakewood. Lakewood is not only the geographic home of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, it is JBLM's home in spirit as well. Lakewood is proud of its servicemen and servicewomen, deeply grateful for the sacrifices they make each day to keep our nation safe and free. 

Lakewood honors its active military members and their families with discounted admissions and services through countless local vendors. It also hosts regular, free or low-cost events for veterans and those who serve and for the rest of our beautiful community.

Lakewood Schools 

Lakewood's staff and faculty work tirelessly to improve education across the district. Home to one of Washington's top college preparatory schools, Harrison Prep (#13 in the state), and excellent college and university instruction through Clover Park Technical College, Pierce College, and nearby Pacific Lutheran University, Lakewood will provide you and your kids some of the best learning opportunities in our region. 

Lakewood’s Location and Access 

The key thing you need to know about Lakewood’s location is that you literally can’t get closer to base than Lakewood. Living in Lakewood can get you around traffic pinch-points on I-5 that pile up around the exits that service JBLM. 

Here's a quick look at what makes Lakewood a special place to live.

Centrally located in the heart of Puget Sound, Lakewood also has instant access to major highways leading north, south, and east, easily connecting it to the rest of Washington and serving as the starting point for major domestic and international shipping priorities. 

Serving as a prominent gateway for both Pierce and Sound Transit, Lakewood provides those without access to a vehicle or those simply wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and eliminate the stress of driving, with multiple bus routes connecting with major stops throughout Pierce and King counties. With park and ride stations in South Tacoma and Lakewood, the Sounder commuter train brings Lakewood residents to their destination in comfort, linking them with Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, Puyallup, and other major stops. 

Just a few exits away from direct routes to Mount Rainier, the Olympics, White Pass, Crystal Mountain and so many other gorgeous spots, the best of our Northwest outdoor adventure is an easy Staycation getaway for any resident.        

[link the Staycation reference here to the Staycation pages on Lakewood’s site.]

Lakewood’s Community

JBLM is the key driver of Lakewood’s economy, so local businesses are especially appreciative of service members and their families. There is a huge veteran and military community in Lakewood, so you’ll meet people everywhere who understand your way of life and value what your family stands for. Lakewood is welcoming and diverse, the tenth most diverse suburb in the state in fact.

Great places to connect with other military families (and friendly civilians) include:

Lakewood’s Economy 

Professional opportunities abound in this business-friendly city. With low business licensing fees, creative financing, inviting legislature, and a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures all living together, Lakewood is a prime location to get your side hustle on, start a family business, or plan a post-military career.

Lakewood currently sees a median household income above $50,000, with the highest earners between the ages of 45 and 65. Lakewood’s contributing industries include federal agencies, state and local government, healthcare, education, retail, medical device manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, IT/Software, and financial services.

Lakewood’s Good Eats 

If you love great food, Lakewood is your place. Our international district boasts cuisine from around the world, with some of the best Asian fare you'll find anywhere. From the perfect pizza to gourmet burgers, and sushi to Indian cuisine, Italian, German, Mexican, Hawaiian, and so many others, a satisfying meal is always just a few minutes away in Lakewood.

Local Perks 

Lakewood offers its active-duty families and veterans quality healthcare and a range of services and amenities within a short drive. With plenty of fitness centers, retail shopping, dining, community event centers, and stunning regional parks, including American Lake and six other lakes, playing host to a variety of options for water recreation, disc golf, and walking trails. Several locations also offer military and veteran's only access points for exclusive leisure to those who have given so much.  

Lakewood on the Greens 

If it's golf you love, 2015 US Open Chambers Bay offers world-class modern links-style play, and other local favorites, such as Oakbrook and Meadowpark, remain coveted choices for the discerning player. You can find excellent gameplay among friends, alongside coworkers, at team fundraisers, or by yourself for a long afternoon of relaxation among the trees. 

There are also some terrific courses for veterans and service members in Lakewood too. Whispering Firs is a gorgeous course just for military members, DOD personnel, and their guests, and American Lake Veterans Golf Course, an Arnold Palmer designed course with special accommodations for para-golfers.

Lakewood’s Housing 

Ranging between $300,000 and $470,000, Lakewood offers homes at several price points across a handful of communities. At around $1300 per month, rents remain attractive for most families. 

Lakewood has a varied sense of style. You’ll see sprawling lakeside and forest estates dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with Craftsman, Prairie, Farmhouse, Colonial Federal, and Mid-Century Modern homes. Lakewood also features a large selection of housing choices for those needing additional financial assistance. 

Bottom Line 

As JBLM's hometown, Lakewood does everything it can to make life, work and transition seamless and satisfying for all military members and veterans. Lakewood provides an all-around better experience to our active military members than what most surrounding cities offer. 

For those stationed at JBLM, there’s no city with an easier commute (just a few minutes) and no town with a more supportive community for those who serve. Plus, Lakewood has the services you depend on and the entertainment you need to unwind, all of this while giving its residents a more affordable way of life. 

DuPont: The Nearby Neighbor

Originally set up in 1833 as a trading post and later purchased by the DuPont family in 1906, DuPont keeps much of its small town vibe and community atmosphere. Predominantly made up of military families, the city also attracts several retirees and civilian professionals looking to work with prominent DuPont businesses like Intel, Amazon, and State Farm.

DuPont History & Lifestyle 

DuPont has a moderate selection of dining and shopping options. But for more comprehensive medical care and a wider range of services, residents will need to commute to Lakewood, Tacoma or Olympia.

DuPont Schools 

Part of the Steilacoom School District, local public education includes Beechwood, Chloe Clark, and Salters Point elementary schools, Pioneer Middle School, and both Steilacoom and Lakes High Schools, respectively, all offering excellent curriculum and staff recognized for their focus on student well-being and success.  

DuPont Housing 

In this season of housing shortages and rising prices, finding available homes to purchase or rent in DuPont continues to be an issue. In a late 2020 article by the Tacoma News Tribune, using data from a recent study by the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership, it turns out that while cost is definitely a concern; it is availability that is really slowing down the plans of many families.

As with most areas right now, homes for sale receive multiple offers. DuPont's median asking price is around $460,000, usually going for around 3.25% above asking. Average rents sit just above $1800 a month. 

Bottom Line 

DuPont is a mellower, comfortable city with a small-town feel and housing that would we might call neither extremely high nor low, given our surrounding market. An easy commute and friendly atmosphere makes DuPont an attractive choice. But limited housing and fewer services within immediate reach could influence some families to look elsewhere.

Olympia - Lacey: Capital City, Plenty of Perks

Around 20 miles south of JBLM, sits our State's capital city of Olympia, and slightly closer to Fort Lewis, sister city Lacey. 

Olympia Lifestyle  

Both have ready access to a range of amenities including ample choices for eclectic food, diverse shopping, good medical care with Providence St. Peter and MultiCare Capital Medical Center, along with physicians across a range of specialties, gorgeous parks, dog-friendly walks, great cycling, and access to the waterfront and Olympic Mountain activities.

Olympia Housing 

Olympia homes are asking an average of $470,000, up a whopping 19% from last year, and selling in less than 5 days. However, with a wider selection, more affordable rent can be found in the capital city, with an average a full $500 less than DuPont, resting currently around $1300.

Olympia has well-maintained Craftsman-style homes, along with patches of Mission, Dutch Colonial Revival, English, and even Mid-Century Modern. Other neighborhoods predominantly feature Contemporary Ranch, Cottage, Northwest Regional, and even a few A-Frames. 

Lacey Housing 

Lacey offers rental units just above this at $1400 a month. Yet, homeowners in Lacey are asking 30k less than Olympia, around $440,000. These figures make both Lacey and Olympia an attractive option. It really comes down to the overall vibe of the city, its available amenities, and where you feel most at home. 

Olympia Schools 

The Olympia area is dedicated to providing an excellent education to its children and young adults, with award-winning schools like Boston Harbor Elementary, McClane Elementary, and Jefferson Middle School, along with respected high schools in Olympia HS, Capital HS, and Avanti.

Bottom Line 

Both Lacey and Olympia remain excellent choices for many military families. Still, commute times can vary widely depending on the time of day, especially during shift changes on base. A 25-minute drive can easily and frequently turn into 45 minutes, or even an hour or more, if several unfortunate factors align. So, for the sacrifice of a bit more traffic, residents gain access to a diverse, socially engaged community, waterfront activities, and excellent services.

Tacoma: Destiny and Demand

Named the City of Destiny, and often toggling back and forth with Spokane for the position of Washington's second largest city after Seattle, Tacoma is a vibrant waterfront community with a range of top-quality services and activities.

Tacoma Lifestyle and Economy 

Hosting the fourth largest port in North America, Tacoma does nearly $70 billion a year in waterborne trade and is the primary international transport hub for several corporate and organizational priorities.

Over the past few decades, Tacoma’s popularity has grown considerably. Partially because of its decreasing crime rate in many neighborhoods, beginning around the turn of the millennium, along with its relatively affordable housing prices, its thriving arts community and dining options, many inner-city parks and multiple waterfront access points.

Seattle and Bellevue professionals, along with many others from King County’s more expensive cities have set up camp in Tacoma and choose to brave the commute, seeing extra road time as a fair trade for a home priced at only half of what Seattle might be asking.  

Tacoma Housing 

Lately, one of the more aggressive real estate markets in the nation because of outside investment and that considerable influx of King County professionals looking for less expensive digs, Tacoma currently sports an average asking price of $430,000, while most homes reach all the way to $450,000 by closing time. The average rent for T-Town residents is $1500 and the atmosphere, in both homes for sale and in rental units. remains highly competitive.

Tacoma’s home styles vary widely, an eclectic mix of classic Craftsman style builds, gorgeous Victorian mansions, Mission, English, Tudor, Saltbox, Ranch, Split-Level and newer, ultra-modern choices. 

Tacoma Schools 

A thriving school district with all levels of education working to improve an already successful collection of institutions, Tacoma features unique choices like the School of the Arts (SOTA) and SAMI, the Science and Math Institute, respected private schools like Charles Wright and Annie Wright, as well as superb post-secondary education in Tacoma Community College, University of Washington Tacoma, and the University of Puget Sound.

Tacoma Services & Amenities 

Two award-winning hospitals, MultiCare's Tacoma General with its adjoined, nationally recognized Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, and CHI Fransiscan's Saint Joseph Medical Center, reside downtown for easy access to both emergency and planned medical care.

Tacoma's sixth avenue district and downtown feature superb dining, arts, and entertainment, while places like Point Ruston, Proctor, Thea Foss, and Old Town offer direct access to waterfront walking, dining, and living choices. Tacoma boasts several local craft breweries, like Wingman, 7 Seas, Engine House 9, Harmon, Odd Otter and Black Fleet, offering up tasty creations for beer lovers of all styles. 

Downtown Tacoma’s Theater District entertains and engages with music and dance performance from across the nation and around the world, along with guest speakers, authors, plays, films and comedy. And with Tacoma Dome hosting numerous shows each year featuring top-billing artists from all genres, there’s usually something for everyone. 

Opened in 2012, Lemay: America’s Car Museum, features one of the largest private auto collections in the world, often leaving visitors speechless with its expansive range of cars, selected from every corner and era, and carefully curated for maximum impact and historical importance. 

Bottom Line 

Tacoma’s highly competitive housing market often means individuals and families are waiting longer for a solution. Still, Tacoma has much to offer to those interested in waterfront living and a growing economy. 

Puyallup - South Hill - Sumner: Family Friendly and Growing

Southeast of Tacoma, a jaunt up I-5 from JBLM and a side trip down highway 512, this trio of cities offers residents a family-friendly atmosphere and safe neighborhoods.

Puyallup Lifestyle & Amenities 

Home to our official State Fair, ample shopping and restaurant options, community events, and respected Good Samaritan Hospital, the Puyallup region offers newcomers a welcoming vibe, pride in local schools and organizations, access to outdoor recreation, and a 25 minute commute to Fort Lewis. Though, during "rush hour," more like "hours," both in the morning and evening, travel times can increase substantially, pushing upwards of an hour or longer.

Puyallup Schools 

Local educators remain focused on quality and support for their kids and parents, and surrounding towns recognize Puyallup's schools for their consistent academic performance and competitive sports teams. Puyallup area elementary schools go through 5th grade, while junior high schools in the district extend through 9th grade (freshman year), with local senior high schools Puyallup HS, Rogers HS, and Emerald Ridge HS, hosting 10th through 12th graders. Sumner High School hosts all four years, 9th-12th.

Puyallup Housing 

Puyallup rents are just above $1600 a month and homes sell between $480,000 and $500,000. As with nearby towns, the Puyallup, South Hill area, often sees competitive bidding wars for desirable homes and multiple offers for each listing. 

Bottom Line 

Those willing to brave a reasonable (from Puget Sound standards), if often frequently disrupted commute, and higher Pierce County housing prices, will get a safe, family-focused community, respected education, variety of services and access to the outdoors in return.

The Outliers: Peaceful Living Among the Pines

Before we go, we’d like to mention a handful of smaller, more rural cities that offer a lot to those interested in a quieter lifestyle. Between 40 minutes and an hour from base, nearby Yelm, Eatonville, Graham, Kapowsin, Roy and a few other towns, offer those stationed here, a chance to live further away from the hustle and noise, surrounded by forest and open spaces, caring neighbors, community values, and services within a longer, but reasonable drive. If you’re fine braving a longer trip in exchange for the added tranquility, it's hard to beat these lovely towns.

In Closing: Where Should I Live if Stationed at Fort Lewis?

When trying to answer the question “Where should I live if stationed at Fort Lewis?” it is important to begin at the source. Visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord Housing Services to learn more about on-base and off-base housing solutions, the Rental Partnership Program, and temporary housing options. 

Next, partner with a trusted agent or realtor with experience in finding quality housing for active duty members of the community. With their resources and considerable knowledge of the market, they can help you avoid common pitfalls while landing you in just the right neighborhood. Thank you again for your incredible service and leadership. You make the Northwest a better place to live.  

What is JBLM?+

Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM) is a U.S. military installation in Washington State, located 9 miles south-southwest of Tacoma, Washington, United States. JBLM is an amalgamation of the United States Army's Fort Lewis and the United States Air Force's McChord Air Force Base. The two bases were combined on February 1, 2010. JBLM is a prominent staging point for both combat and humanitarian missions. Fort Lewis is one part, in fact, half of JBLM, along with McChord Air Force Base. Fort Lewis represents the United States Army’s I Corps.

Where is Fort Lewis?+

Fort Lewis is located on JBLM in the United States, approximately 9 miles south-southwest of Tacoma, Washington.

What City is Fort Lewis in?+

Fort Lewis is in Lakewood, Washington.

What County is Fort Lewis Washington in?+

Fort Lewis, also known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is located in Pierce County.

Where is McChord Air Force Base?+

McChord Air Force Base is a part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord located in Lakewood, Washington.

What cities are near Fort Lewis?+

Nearby cities include Fort Lewis's hometown of Lakewood Washington, along with Tacoma, DuPont, Lacey, Olympia, Fife, Puyallup, Sumner, Yelm, Graham, Milton, Federal Way, Seattle, and several others.

What is Fort Lewis weather like?+

Fort Lewis weather, like much of Western Washington's weather, is mild. Regulated by the shielding effects of the Cascade range to the east, and both Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the West, Western Washington sees milder winters with occasional snowfall and frequent evenings and mornings of freezing temperatures, a spring season of rain and sun mixed, beautiful summers ranging between the mid-60s to the low-90s, and brisk colorful autumns with lingering cold mornings and nights, and several days of rainfall. Fort Lewis receives an average of 47.6 inches of rain per year, about 9 inches more than the national average, with 155 days of annual precipitation.

Where should I rent or buy when stationed at JBLM?+

It is important to get help from both Joint-Base Lewis McChord Housing Services and from trusted, local real estate agents, realtors, or teams with experience in finding excellent housing solutions for active members of the military. Excellent choices include Lakewood, Olympia, DuPont, Puyallup, Tacoma, Yelm, South hill, Graham and Sumner. Many service members enjoy the convenience of and community of JBLM's hometown of Lakewood so much that they choose to retire there.

Why is Lakewood a great city for soldiers?+

Lakewood is a good choice for those stationed at JBLM because it is JBLM's hometown, making your commute time as easy as possible. Lakewood also features a diverse, caring community with family-friendly values, an inviting business atmosphere, a wide range of services like dining, shopping, quality healthcare, and entertainment, along with good schools, affordable housing choices for buyers and renters, and plenty of access to outdoor recreation and leisure.

What Outdoor Activities Are Available Near JBLM+

Opportunities to explore the great outdoors are in good supply. Aside from our many local parks, golf courses, lakes and rivers, JBLM is close to Mount Rainier, the Olympic National Park, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and the Pacific Ocean. There is something for just about everyone, including motorized and non-motorized watersports on the nearby American Lake, hiking, biking, paddling, off-road activities, snow skiing at some of the Northwest's finest slopes including Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie and Mount Baker, world class camping, and plenty of community events for every member of the family.

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