Jobs in homes raise eyebrows
Wave of the future bothers some aldermen

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 15/96) - Home businesses are proving very popular in Yellowknife, a little too popular for some aldermen.

Requests for home business permits, until recently rubber-stamped by council, are now provoking questions about the concept of allowing small businesses to be operated in residences.

"What effect will these have on property values?" asked alderman Jo MacQuarrie at Monday's meeting of council.

"There should be no loss of value through home occupations," responded senior administrator Doug Lagore. "This is the wave of the future. It's estimated that by the turn of the century 60 per cent of the workforce will be operating out of their homes."

There has been a flood of home business permits, known as "home occupation" permits, in recent years.

Last year 207 were approved. To November this year, 215 more were given the nod. So far this year city hall has issued (including renewals) 492 home business licences.

"In some single blocks we'll see half a dozen - that has an impact on an area," said alderman John Dalton, repeating a call he's made at past meetings to rethink home occupation approval process.

To receive the permit, applicants must fill out a form, pay $50 and promise to comply with 12 restrictions. The restrictions include:

A home occupation permit recently requested by a large mining company raised concerns that the original intent of the approval process has been perverted.

"I feel the purpose of home permits was to allow someone to start a small business and, once established, move it downtown," said alderman Ruth Spence. "This is the reverse."

MacQuarrie raised the issue of lost taxes, asking, "If there are higher taxes in the commercial area ... shouldn't we encourage them to move downtown, since we have so much empty office space there right now?"

The mill rate -- dollars owed for each thousand dollars of assessed value -- for commercial property is 14.6. The residential mill rate is 8.3.

Under current rates, then, taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 would be $830. For a $100,000 business, taxes would be $1,460.

Lagore said the issuance of home occupation permits will be reviewed as part of a general review of the city's zoning bylaw.

MacQuarrie and Dalton alone opposed two of three home occupation requests at Monday's meeting. Spence joined them on the third.