Of the 341 hawker stallholders whose tenancies were up for renewal between April and June this year, only five per cent—or 17 out of 341 stallholders—had their rentals increased by S$10 to S$300, said Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor on Tuesday (6 July).
Speaking in Parliament, Dr Khor said 58 per cent of the 341 stallholders had their rentals revised down the market rate which ranged from S$30 to more than S$2,500 per month, and 37 per cent continue to pay the same rental.
She was responding to a Parliamentary question from Member of Parliament (MP) Melvin Yong about financial aid for hawkers who have been affected by the COVID-19, and how the Ministry intends to help draw crowds back to the affected markets and hawker centres once the COVID-19 cluster has closed.
According to Dr Khor, the valuation for a large majority of hawker stalls has declined in the 2021 financial year due to the COVID-19 impact.
For the 17 hawkers who saw an increase in their rental rates, the median rental was S$850 per month, said Dr Khor, adding that even the stores which had rental increased by S$300 are “still paying at or below the market valuation”.
“Most stallholders are aware that increases towards the market rental level are in fact moderated. In recent years, rental revision upwards at tenancy renewal have not exceeded S$300.
“Today, the median monthly rent for non-subsidised cooked food hawker stalls is S$1,250 and remains significantly lower than those at coffee shops and food courts,” said the Senior Minister.
Dr Khor also explained how the rental rates for hawker stalls are determined.
“When new hawkers obtain vacant stalls in NEA-managed hawker centres via monthly stall tenders, the rent that they pay is the amount they tendered. There is no minimum rental,” she said, adding that there are also bidders who tender high bids to secure a choice stall at their preferred locations.
Dr Khor continued: “This open tender system ensures transparency and fair pricing, particularly for stalls in high demand, such as those in locations with high footfall.”
She highlighted that these rentals have been kept unchanged for the duration of the three-year tenancy period, adding that the Ministry will not put up the occupied stalls for tender when the tenancy expires as this would be “disruptive” to the hawkers who have built up their customer base.
“Instead, rentals are adjusted based on independent professional valuation that considers factors such as the footfall of the centre, stall size, and prevailing market conditions to assess the market rental. The rent is then adjusted towards the assessed market rate,” she added.
The Government has provided five months of rental waiver and three months of subsidies for table cleaning and centralised dishwashing fees last year, to help hawkers defray their operating costs amid the impact brought by the COVID-19, said Dr Khor.
She noted that the Government stepped in to provide two months of rental waiver and subsidy for cleaning services when restrictions on dining-in were imposed again from 16 May to July.
Eligible hawkers also received S$9,000 in financial support last year via the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, the Senior Minister added.
“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,” she remarked.
That said, Dr Khor advised hawkers who continue to face financial difficulties—due to the increase after the most recent two-month rental waiver from mid-May to mid-July—to approach the National Environment Agency (NEA) for assistance.
“NEA will do a careful review on a case-by-case basis,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Dr Khor also revealed that the occupancy rates for cooked food stalls in NEA-managed centres have “remained high” at about 97 per cent.
She told the House that a monthly average of 16 stall tenancies were terminated from last year to May this year, which is lower than the monthly average of 28 terminations during the pre-COVID period from 2017 to 2019.
Dr Khor also hinted that the Government will look into providing rental waivers for hawkers affected by the closures resulted from the COVID-19 clusters.
Hawkers who have been served quarantine orders can seek assistance from various financial schemes like the Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme or the COVID-19 Recovery Grant.
“In the case of the Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre, hawkers operating there are already covered under the current rental waivers until mid-July,” she added.