NEA announces Staggered Rent Scheme to ease initial costs for new hawker centre stallholders

Jurong West Hawker Centre. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) has announced a new rent scheme for stallholders at its new hawker centres to help hawkers establish their businesses.

The Stagger Rent Scheme will see these stallholders benefit from lower rentals in the first two years of the centres’ operations, at 80 per cent and 90 per cent of stall rentals respectively, the NEA said in a media release on Monday (26 August).

This scheme will be implemented at the 13 new hawker centres that NEA is projecting to build by 2027. The first hawker centre to implement this scheme will be the one at Bukit Canberra, slated to open in the second half of next year.

“Experience from the last four years shows that new hawker centres largely take time to establish themselves. Time is generally needed to raise potential patrons’ awareness of these new centres and for the stallholders at the centres to build up a regular clientele and stabilise their businesses,” NEA said in its media release.

“As more hawker centres are built in the coming years, the new Staggered Rent Scheme will be introduced to support stallholders’ businesses in the initial years of the new hawker centres’ operations.”

Existing stallholders benefit, too

For three existing hawker centres that would still be in their second year of operations as of 1 September – Yishun Park, Jurong West and Pasir Ris Central – NEA will extend the rental remission of 10 per cent for six months (from 1 September to 29 February 2020) to all eligible stallholders.

New stallholders who begin their businesses at these three centres with these six months will similarly enjoy the 10 per cent stall rental remission until 29 February next year.

The Staggered Rent Scheme is in addition to the subsidy for the central dishwashing service, which has been in effect since 1 January at the seven hawker centres built since 2011 and run by social enterprises.

Under the subsidy, the cost of the dishwashing service is co-funded by NEA, at 50 per cent for the first year and 30 per cent for the second year, to allow stallholders to better manage their initial operating costs.

Upcoming new centres will also enjoy co-funding support by NEA for their central dishwashing services, which helps to alleviate the workload and manpower constraints faced by hawkers.

Fine-tuning evaluation criteria

Following its review of the hawker centres, NEA is also fine-tuning its evaluation criteria for tender proposals from socially-conscious enterprises which are interested in operating the upcoming hawker centres.

In future tenders, more consideration will be given to the proposed total costs to stallholders, as operators who propose lower stall rentals and operating costs will be considered even more favourably than under current criteria. As per current criteria, operators are also not allowed to vary these rentals and costs over the tenancy term.

Proposed initiatives that drive footfall to the hawker centre will also be considered under the new tender evaluation criteria, as footfall will ultimately drive patronage and the business success for the hawkers.

Findings from REACH poll

NEA also released key findings of a poll conducted in April by REACH, Singapore government’s feedback unit, on public sentiments towards the seven new hawker centres managed by socially-conscious enterprises. The telephone poll was conducted with a sample of 1,157 randomly-selected Singapore residents aged 15 and above.

Close to three in four respondents, who said they were aware of the controversy of the management model of the new hawker centres, were supportive for hawker centres to be managed by either socially-conscious enterprises or NEA, as opposed to having all hawker centres managed by NEA.

Other findings from the poll include:

  • Patronage: Three in seven respondents have eaten at the seven new hawker centres, out of the total of 114 hawker centres in Singapore.

  • Affordable food options: One in 10 respondents who have eaten at the new hawker centres disagreed or strongly disagreed that they provide affordable food options.

  • Offer three meals a day: More than four in five respondents agreed or strongly agreed that there should always be some stalls opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner at a hawker centre (this is the case for all new hawker centres).

  • Cleanliness: About three in five respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the new hawker centres are cleaner than other hawker centres, while one in 10 disagreed or strongly disagreed.

  • Attractive to aspiring hawkers: About one in two agreed or strongly agreed that the new hawker centres will attract new hawkers to join the trade, while less than one in five disagreed or strongly disagreed.

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