Falling rents? Existing hawkers can bid for vacant stalls

We thank Mr Adam Yap Keh Chew for his letter ("Impose same rental fee for all hawker stalls"; Monday ).

Hawker centres are icons of our social infrastructure. They are places where Singaporeans from all walks of life can interact and enjoy fresh food at affordable prices.

Consequently, the Government sets aside land specifically for the development of hawker centres so that hawker rentals are delinked from rentals of commercial properties.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) lets out vacant stalls in hawker centres by tender in order to ensure transparency in the allocation of stalls.

These vacant stalls are situated in different hawker centres and hawkers may sell different food items to cater to a wide variety of patrons.

Each hawker centre has its own unique combination of customer traffic.

Consequently, it would not be practical or fair to fix the rentals of all stalls in all hawker centres at the same rate.

However, existing hawkers can take advantage of declining rentals by bidding for any vacant stalls in the same or other hawker centres.

If they are successful, NEA allows them to terminate their existing stalls and take up the new stalls without penalty.

Hawkers set their own food prices taking into consideration their operating costs, market competition and what patrons are willing to pay.

They do not need to submit their prices to NEA for pre-approval.

Since March 2012, we have removed the reserve rent in the tenders for hawker stalls.

This has encouraged more bids by prospective hawkers as well as reduced stall vacancies.

NEA hopes that the policy change, which has resulted in declining rentals for new entrants, will help hawkers to price food more affordably.

In addition, NEA is open to new ideas from social enterprises, including potential discounted bulk purchasing of ingredients, to help hawkers further manage their costs.

The Government is also building 20 new hawker centres by 2027, with the first two centres in Hougang and Bukit Panjang opening this year.

The 20 new centres will add more than 800 cooked food stalls, which will help to further moderate food prices and lower stall rentals.

Ivy Ong (Ms)
Director, Hawker Centres Division
National Environment Agency

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'Falling rents? Existing hawkers can bid for vacant stalls'. Print Edition | Subscribe