Lakewood, which is actually on a Sound Read Guide >
One of the most notable facts of life in Lakewood is that the city is home to approximately 40,000 uniformed military personnel (the total population is only 57,000), most of whom are employed at one of the city’s two biggest employers, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. The bases combine to pump more than 2 billion greenbacks a year into the local economy. Unsurprisingly, many neighborhoods are inhabited largely by military personnel, making Lakewood one of the most uniquely American cities you’ll find anywhere.
Before you go jumping to conclusions, though, know that the military bases aren’t the only breadwinners for tenants. Lakewood is also home to numerous retail and hospitality destinations as well as the largest mental health facility in the western United States. Because the city is located in such close proximity to Tacoma and Seattle, meanwhile, apartment dwellers should have no problem landing a job with enough cash flow to pay both the rent and save a buck or two in the process for all those breathtaking mountain vacations you’ll be planning.
That brings us to one of the major high points to living in Lakewood: the city’s moderate climate, which rarely dips below 40 or climbs above 80. With Mother Nature smiling so kindly on the city, outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy the various parks, trails, natural preserves, and lakes that the city boasts year-round. Washington has been increasing in popularity for quite a while, and its scenic wonders are no small part of that equation.
Lakewood is one of those rare cities where renters actually outnumber homeowners (by roughly 5 percent). Obviously, there are a whole slew of apartments to choose from in Lakewood, ranging from modest studios and 1BR units that barely cost $500 all the way up to sprawling 3BR family pads that cover 1100-plus square feet and cost $2000 or more. Landlords in Lakewood often have drastically different policies regarding lease durations, pets, roommates, smoking, etc., so do some preliminary research about a possible apartment complex before scheduling a visit.
Because Lakewood is home to a large number of transient renters who are in town for temporary assignments only, you’ll find a large cluster of apartments just north and west of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Pierce College, and along Steilacoom Blvd. and Military Road. Many of these complexes are inhabited largely by military personnel, but some civilians (many of whom feel safest, for obvious reasons, in such locations) live there as well. Many properties near base offer month-to-month as well as long-term leasing options, and you can almost always find a handful of move-in specials throughout the year, so scour the listings thoroughly to find the best deal for you.
Since apartments often turn over quickly in many cases, tenants should take extra care to inspect their new place for leaks, cracks, and other flaws before moving in, as landlords sometimes miss a blemish that the previous tenant left behind. As for renting credentials, you won’t need to jump through many hoops to score a place in Lakewood. Just bring along a list of previous residences/references, proof of income, and a blank check to buck up for the meager security deposit you might have to pay, and you’ll be kicking off your army boots and starting work on that peach soufflé you’ve been planning in no time.
Anyone who watches the reality show Cops regularly knows the name Lakewood, since the city’s been the focus of the show multiple times over the years. As you can probably guess, there are a few red-flag zones in the city that you should probably avoid. Generally, the neighborhoods near the city center and Lakeview all the way down to the Tillicum area can be dicey, while the more family-friendly neighborhoods, many of which are extremely affluent, are clustered on the eastern half, around the military bases, and in the Lake City area.
Luckily, it’s easy to tell which parts of the city are a bit blighted: if you look around and see graffiti-covered buildings, littered streets, and broken windows, there’s a good chance you’re in an unsavory part of town. Of course, some people feel comfortable in neighborhoods that others would prefer to avoid, so don’t take our word for it. It’s usually best to look around for yourself and see which area suits you – odds are good it won’t take long!
For a relatively small city, Lakewood has a more than adequate public transportation system. The Pierce (bus), Sound (bus and rail), and Intercity (bus) Transits combine to make numerous stops throughout Lakewood and its surrounding communities and also offer express service to Seattle and light rail service to Tacoma. 32 park-and-ride lots are situated beside the city’s transit centers, making riding the bus to and fro a feasible option for pretty much any budget-minded commuter. Still, we wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on public transportation; because Lakewood is so sprawling and not exactly walker-friendly in many parts, you’ll probably need your own vehicle at times if you want to work, shop, and play conveniently – which you clearly will, because everyone likes having fun.
And there you have it, folks. Looking for a sweet apartment in Lakewood, whether you’re there for two-month training or to put down some roots in America’s favorite military town, is a simple and affordable feat. Life here may revolve around one thing, but you can be sure that there’s plenty of other fun stuff – like the breathtaking natural wonders of Washington itself, for example – to keep you busy and thoroughly inspired during your stay. Welcome to Lakewood!