SINGAPORE – Nearly six in 10 stallholders who applied for their tenancies to be renewed at hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) had their rentals decreased.
This was during the latest renewal period from April to June this year.
The drop ranged from $30 to more than $2,500 for 58 per cent of the 341 cooked food stallholders, whose tenancies were up for renewal.
The rental remained the same for 37 per cent of this group, while the remaining 5 per cent, or 17 stallholders, had to pay between $10 and $300 more.
Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor disclosed these figures in Parliament on Tuesday (July 6), in response to questions from Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas). He wanted to know whether there are plans to provide additional aid for hawkers who have been forced to close shop or seen their business drop significantly due to proximity to a Covid-19 cluster.
So far, seven months’ worth of rental waivers and five months of subsidies for cleaning have been given since April last year. NEA revealed in June that five months’ worth of rental waivers were extended to around 14,000 market and cooked food stallholders last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
Eligible hawkers would have also received $9,000 in financial support last year via the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme.
Additionally, all hawker stall rental increases were frozen from April last year to March this year.
“We are mindful that however small the group, any rental increase, even if it has been moderated, is always sensitive, and that this is a challenging period,” Dr Khor said.
Hawkers who need help because of the increase after the most recent two months’ rental waiver from mid-May to mid-July can approach the NEA.
Her response also came off the back of discussions online that NEA had raised a town-based hawker stall’s rent by a significant percentage. A Facebook post by food consultant and hawker champion K.F. Seetoh noted that the particular hawker’s rent would go up by almost 40 per cent, from $800 to $1,100.
Outlining the tender process at the 114 NEA-managed hawker centres, Dr Khor said rentals are adjusted based on independent professional valuation that considers factors such as footfall, stall size and market conditions.
The rentals are kept unchanged for the duration of the three-year tenancy.
“The rent is then adjusted towards the assessed market rate,” she added, noting that stallholders who had initially tendered a bid higher than that rate at renewal will benefit from a downwards adjustment.
Similarly, stalls with rentals lower than the assessed rate will see an upwards adjustment.
“The open tender system ensures transparency and fair pricing, particularly for stalls in high demand such as those in locations with high footfall,” she added.
Dr Khor pointed out that the median monthly rent for a non-subsidised cooked food hawker stall is $1,250, which remains significantly lower than those at coffee shops and foodcourts.
Despite the challenging period, occupancy rates for cooked food stalls in NEA-managed centres have remained high, averaging at around 97 per cent.
For hawkers affected by closures as a result of Covid-19 clusters, Dr Khor said the Government will look into providing rental waivers.
Hawkers who have been served quarantine orders or whose incomes have been adversely affected can continue to seek extra support via schemes, such as the Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme, Courage Fund and Covid-19 Recovery Grant.
Efforts are continuing to help draw crowds back to markets and hawker centres – affected by Covid-19 clusters – that have since reopened, such as Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre.
“It is crucial to regain public confidence and assure returning customers that there are no compromises to cleanliness and hygiene standards,” said Dr Khor.
NEA has been working with companies and town councils to ensure proper deep cleaning and disinfection of common areas.
“Advisers can also work with their grassroots and the hawkers’ associations to assure the local community that it is safe to return to these hawker centres when they reopen, and rally the community to support our hawkers,” she added.
Join ST’s Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.
Source: Read Full Article