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Working from home requires vision for downtown Vernon

VERNON – Where and how people work has changed during the pandemic and that creates challenges as well as opportunities for communities like Vernon.
While the number of people returning to in-person workplaces is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels nationally, the mobility change for Vernon has decreased 13.3 per cent since January 2020 according to a new study from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Many employees headed home as the pandemic began and they continue to work from there. Not only has that meant empty offices, but it has led to reduced foot traffic in areas such as downtown, impacting restaurants and shops that used to attract those office workers,” said Dan Proulx, Greater Vernon Chamber general manager.

Communities with a higher rate of professional workers, university educated, commuting options, and women are seeing less mobility to workplaces, according to the study.

“Employers have continued to be accommodating following the pandemic so working from home may be permanent in some cases, and that means alternatives are needed for vacated spaces that benefit the community,” said Proulx.

With Vernon’s Official Community Plan up for review, one option is for the city to encourage developers to pursue residential conversion of some properties that are being underutilized downtown.

“Vernon, like many communities, is experiencing a housing crunch and affordability is increasingly an issue for families and employers, who cannot attract workers. With many offices sitting empty, there could be an opportunity to transform them into studio suites or apartments,” said Proulx.

“Obviously there would be some hurdles to overcome such as parking, but housing could increase vitality downtown, creating a consumer base for restaurants and shops and reducing safety and security concerns. Housing would also assist employers in trying to retain staff.”

The Chamber is asking the City of Vernon to create flexibility within development rules, including the policy that currently only permits residential uses if there is commercial on the ground floor.

“The trend for remote work is likely going to continue and if we have learned anything through the pandemic, it’s that adaptation is necessary to survive. We are calling on the City of Vernon and private investors to embrace a vision that creates growth and energy throughout the community and economy.”

Read the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s workplace mobility report here 

Dan Proulx, General Manager   
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce
P: 250-545-0771              E: