Lower rents for hawkers at social enterprise hawker centres; 13 more to open by 2027

Diners at the hawker centre at Our Tampines Hub, managed by OTMH, the social enterprise subsidiary of food court operator Kopitiam.
Diners at the hawker centre at Our Tampines Hub, managed by OTMH, the social enterprise subsidiary of food court operator Kopitiam.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Hawkers at social enterprise hawker centres (SEHCs) are being given a break in terms of rental in the latest of a series of improvements to the SEHC operating model.

It comes as more social enterprise hawker centres (SEHCs) are set to take root in other areas of Singapore, with the first of 13 to open in 2020 at the Bukit Canberra sport and community hub in Sembawang.

The new SEHCS, to be completed in 2027, will join the seven existing social enterprise hawker centres currently operating across Singapore. These are managed by five social-enterprise entities: Hawker Management by Koufu, Fei Siong Social Enterprise, NTUC Foodfare, Timbre+Hawkers and OTMH by Kopitiam.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) oversees most of Singapore’s other hawker centres.

Hawkers at the 13 new SEHCs will get a head start with the NEA’s new Staggered Rent Scheme, which will see stallholders paying lower rents for the first two years of the centres’ operations. In the first year, they will pay 80 per cent rent for the stall, and in the second year, 90 per cent.

With the median rent per month being $2,000 at SEHCs, hawkers will save around $400 on rent each month for the first year, and $200 per month the second year.

Hawkers at three existing SEHCs will also benefit from this scheme.

Eligible stallholders at the Yishun Park, Jurong West, and Pasir Ris Central centres will enjoy a 10 per cent rental remission for six months from September 1 this year.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor said: “From our experience over the last four years, new hawker centres and stallholders need time to establish themselves to build up their business and a regular base of clientele. We are now going to provide further support measures to the stallholders in our upcoming centres.”

 
 

These temporary reductions in rental prices are in addition to subsidies for centralised dish washing services announced in January this year.

The NEA said it would co-fund the cost of dish washing at 50 per cent for the first year of adaption, and 30 per cent for the second.

Other changes to SEHC operations also took place in November last year, when the NEA reviewed key contractual terms between the five operators of SEHCs and their hawkers.

This slew of changes comes after the SEHCs were criticised by hawkers late last year, with some complaining about onerous contractual terms, high rents,long hours, low footfall, and being locked into contracts.

NEA officials told The Straits Times that the agency is unlikely to take back oversight of day-to-day operations at the hawker centres.
“We will be continuing with the SEHC model, and the upcoming centres that will be built will be operated by successful socially-conscious operators,” said Dr Khor, adding that the new hawker centres have done reasonably well, and achieved the social objectives set.

“Whether it is new hawker centres or existing hawker centres, and whatever the management model, hawker centres built by the government will continue to be owned and regulated by the government.”

Dr Khor added that the NEA will also be reviewing and enhancing the tender evaluation criteria for proposals submitted by SEHC operators for future hawker centres that they would like to manage.

She said: “This will help us to ensure that we safeguard the well-being and interests of hawkers, while achieving our social objectives of ensuring that residents get access to affordable food in a hygienic environment, so that hawkers can make a decent living, and also so hawker centres can remain vibrant social spaces.”