A Richmond city councillor wants the city to expand its at-home business rules, especially since many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coun. Kelly Greene has put forward a motion to look at the feasibility of expanded at-home business use for those who work in the personal service sector, for example, registered massage therapists (RMTs), nail estheticians and hair stylists.
“I just want to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for our residents…to help make sure that we’re not creating more crises for people who are trying to put food on the table,” Greene told the Richmond News.
Young people and women continue to be the hardest hit by unemployment amid COVID-19, according to B.C. Finance Minister Carole James who was speaking about the first quarterly financial report of 2020/21 last week.
But changing at-home business rules could help address that, along with other impacts felt by women during the pandemic, Greene said.
“The amount of childcare that is being provided by women for their families increased during the pandemic, at the same time they’re facing unemployment,” she added.
“It’s a really, really challenging time and it’s compounded by different factors, and one of those is being a woman.”
An at-home business option could also help the sector better meet health and safety guidelines.
Greene would like city staff to look at what other municipalities currently allow for those employed in the personal-service sector and whether such changes would be an expansion of current at-home business licence rules, or if the city could issue a type of temporary permit.
For example, Greene said, it can be difficult to physically distance in a hair salon – meaning a salon may not be able to have the same number of staff and someone would be let go – or RMTs may not have proper ventilation in the commercial units they work out of.
“They might just have a baseboard heater, and then that creates a really safe environment, where somebody’s enclosed in a room with no ventilation during treatment time.
“The RMT that I most recently spoke to did indicate that she’d be better able to control the quality of air and distancing in her home.”
Currently in Richmond, RMTS or other personal service workers can go to clients’ houses but they can’t work out of their own home, said Greene.
And while keeping traffic to a minimum is important, there is also a precedent in the current at-home licensing rules, said Greene, such as one-on-one home tutoring businesses.
“We already have a range of business uses that are allowed in homes,” said Greene.
“So, it’s just a matter of whether our regulations are aligning with other municipalities around the Lower Mainland, and if there’s any temporary changes we need to look at for adapting to the pandemic and making sure that we’re not creating economic hardship.”
Greene’s motion is on the agenda for Monday’s general purposes committee meeting.