But the surprise election of political novice Chloe Eudaly to the City Council could also have a lasting effect on affordable housing in the city.
Eudaly is not your typical commissioner-elect. She owns a bookstore that features books like “Capitalism: What it is and How Can We Destroy It?” She’s the first person to beat an incumbent commissioner in 24 years. She’ll be the only commissioner who is a renter and the only one who lives on the east side of the city.
“A lot of people want to see change at City Hall, and a lot of people don’t feel represented,” Eudaly said.
Eudaly ran on a change platform, particularly around the issue of housing. She’s advocated for a rent freeze and rent control, the construction of affordable housing and banning no-cause evictions.
Israel Bayer, executive director of the nonprofit, homeless-advocate newspaper Street Roots, said he thinks widespread concern about housing in Portland is a major reason Eudaly won.
“I’m sure that if you dug deep into the analysis of the relationship between skyrocketing rents, visible homelessness, the climate of the city, and then you couple that with an affordable housing bond and a city candidate that’s running on a housing platform — I’m sure that all of the above played into being able to deliver Chloe a victory,” Bayer said.
Even before the passage of the housing bond and Eudaly’s election, 2016 was shaping up to be a banner year for those fighting for affordable housing in Portland.
In March, the state Legislature rolled back a ban on mandatory inclusionary zoning that prevented cities from requiring developers to build affordable units. The City Council is expected to pass a mandatory inclusionary zoning rule in December, along with new rules designed to encourage the construction of duplexes and triplexes in areas that have been zoned for single-family homes.
But Eudaly said all that is only a first step.
She wants to go back to Salem to ask for more leeway from the state to address the affordable housing crisis.
“I’ve already been talking with some state legislators about policy making they’ll be working on in the upcoming session around lifting the ban on rent control and getting rid of the preemption on just cause evictions,” Eudaly said.
House Speaker Tina Kotek has promised to work on housing issues next year and has said that she supports lifting the state ban on rent control.
But it’s Eudaly’s aim to change the political landscape in Portland that, if successful, might have the biggest long-term effect on city policy. She wants the City Council to be more diverse.
“None of them are small business owners, none of them are renters, none of them are people of color,” she said. “Only seven women have been elected in 100 years and only two people of color have been elected.”
Eudaly wants to implement public campaign financing to level the playing field and make that diversity possible. Eudaly said she pays herself $36,000 a year for operating her bookstore. As commissioner, she’ll make over $110,000 a year.
In her campaign, she raised $80,000 compared to Commissioner Steve Novick’s $500,000.
“Modest as my means are and tough as this race was for me, there are a lot of viable, worthwhile potential candidates out there that don’t have the advantages that I had,” Eudaly said. “I will be working for the next few years on reducing those barriers to participation, and that definitely starts with campaign finance reform.”
Commissioner Amanda Fritz has already proposed a plan to implement a public financing system, and Eudaly’s election makes campaign finance reform more likely to pass. If it does, she may be just the first of many candidates like her.
Until then, Eudaly said she intends to publish a zine to help others learn from her experience and mount low-budget grassroots campaigns of their own.