Impact of remote work being seen in Kelowna – MLA Minute

Photo: Contributed

Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield

The pandemic unleashed a tidal wave of remote working, upending our very notions of home and office, and igniting a revolution in how and where we conduct our lives.

A recent study by LinkedIn’s Economic Graph research team revealed Kelowna, our beautiful city nestled between lakes and mountains, has seen a more dramatic shift in this remote work phenomenon, and has emerged as the top Canadian metropolitan centre for remote job applications.

I understand why people want to live here. I can walk out my door and in five minutes I can be in a provincial park with a lake view to walk my dogs and visit with community members going for a morning hike. The trees, the air, the view, the people – it’s all breathtaking.

Many have moved here over the last few years, but the new data shows while they live here, they may not work here and may work remotely.

Kelowna’s transition into a “Zoom town” has opened the door for significant benefits, but with those opportunities come challenges. As the data suggests, our beautiful city has become a beacon for those desiring a balance of remote work and a higher quality of life.

But with this new set of circumstances, we need to ensure we are responding with the necessary steps to maintain a stable economy and housing for employees that businesses here require.

Businesses located in Kelowna are struggling to find people under the taxation and legislation they are regulated by, and yet, people who already live here are choosing to work in other parts of Canada remotely.

Housing that could be provided to local employees, is being used by employees of other provinces.

These remote workers living in Kelowna put further strain on the housing market, causing rental rates and housing prices to rise. It was recently reported the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose to a record $2,464 per month in July.

This phenomenon is more pronounced in Kelowna than in other parts of B.C. and will require a robust provincial response to make sure we maintain a healthy and vibrant economy.

What do I think that the province do?

1. Strengthen local jobs: Offer tax incentives for companies prioritizing local hires or setting up local branches. Moreover, foster high-paying jobs in Kelowna to reduce the necessity for remote work.

2. Affordable housing: Address escalating housing prices by expediting provincial department approvals (such as Ministry of Transportation) for projects meeting local needs and providing incentives for affordable housing projects.

3. Enhance infrastructure: The influx of new residents necessitates improved public transportation and amenities. It’s vital to ensure our spaces and infrastructure can keep pace with the growth.

4. Diversify work opportunities: Instead of relying solely on remote jobs, the province should encourage local entrepreneurship through training, grants, and subsidies.

5. Skills development: Investing in skill development ensures that our community is equipped for both remote and on-site roles, balancing the job market.

6. Support local enterprises: Introduce grants, tax breaks, or loans to aid local businesses in recruitment and retention.

7. Collaborative housing solutions: Forming partnerships between the public and private sectors can expedite affordable housing development.

Our province and community should work hand in hand, ensuring the “Zoom town” transformation is sustainable and benefits all. That means balancing remote job opportunities with local employment needs and ensuring our housing and infrastructure evolve in tandem with our growing population.

In essence, the goal should be to transform the challenges presented by Kelowna’s “Zoom town” status into opportunities for holistic growth and development.

My question to you is this:

What do you think the province should do to make sure that businesses thrive in Kelowna?

I love hearing from you and I read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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