Kaarin Knudson. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Building a Better Eugene

Mayoral candidate and architect, Kaarin Knudson looks to another city’s success as a basis for solving Eugene’s biggest concern

Eugene’s next mayor will be tasked with addressing the community’s top concerns for the city: homelessness, housing and public safety, according to a 2022 survey in collaboration with ETC Institute, a company that assists local governments in collecting data.

In October 2023, Eugene Weekly introduced readers to Eugene mayoral candidate Kaarin Knudson, a former University of Oregon track star and architect. The mom of two says she is running for mayor because her family is rooted in Eugene and she is dedicated to the future of the city. 

Poised and sitting with impeccable posture, she tells EW of her plans for serving the city and its residents. 

Knudson says her priorities for the city are solving the housing crisis, addressing climate change and making public spaces safe, welcoming and restorative. She says she supports new residents putting down roots in Eugene and would like to see growth in the workforce.

Knudson says it’s apparent that Eugene also needs more affordable housing for current residents, such as “compact, climate resilient, one and two person households.” 

In 2017, Knudson founded Better Housing Together, an organization that advocates for more affordable, accessible and diverse forms of housing rather than just single family homes and apartments. 

“Eugene is always going to solve our challenges in unique ways,” she says. 

But Knudson says Eugene can still learn a lot from other cities. She says places like Abilene, Texas, that have essentially solved homelessness can serve as models for housing the unhoused population in Eugene. 

Abilene took on ending homelessness by adopting a collaborative approach correlated with the Built for Zero model. This model uses frequent data collection to detail each community member experiencing homelessness and determine a solution for each specific person, as defined in the Result for America’s Economic Mobility Catalog.

“Where to begin would be with a city center that is climate responsive, walkable, and advancing equity goals,” Knudson says. 

Transitioning downtown’s low-rise buildings, parking lots and big box stores into housing could condense the area and make it more habitable, she says.

Asked what economic development initiatives she would take on as mayor, Knudson says she would like to foster a city that supports broader economic development. She says this includes livability to allow for small businesses and households to put down roots affordably and making sure the workforce emerges from education ready to take on jobs.

Knudson is endorsed by current Mayor Lucy Vinis, state representatives Paul Holvey and Julie Fahey, six city councilors and other local politicians. 

Her campaign has raised more than $240,000. Members of Eugene’s Realtors Political Action Committee donated more than $130,000 in in-kind and cash contributions under the name “Eugene Realtors for Community.” RPAC is a nationwide organization that supports political candidates who are aligned with its mission of protecting and promoting homeownership and property investment

Knudson faces Shanaè Joyce-Stringer and Stefan “Ace Dog” Strek in the May primary. If one of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote in this race for a nonpartisan seat, theirs is the only name that goes on the ballot in the fall. 

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