SINGAPORE - Hawker stall rents are competitive and significantly lower than stall rentals at commercially operated coffee shops and food courts, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Saturday (June 26).
The statement followed discussions online that the agency had raised a hawker stall's rent by a significant percentage.
Saying that it wanted to clarify, NEA, which manages 114 hawker centres, pointed out that hawker stalls had a typical tenancy period of three years, during which rental is kept unchanged.
The renewal of tenancy three years later will be based on prevailing market rates as assessed by independent professional valuers, it said.
NEA said: "In recent years, rental revision upwards at tenancy renewals in our hawker centres have not exceeded $300. On the other hand, there has been rental revisions downwards of more than $300 upon tenancy renewals. It is misleading to look at percentage increases alone as a $300 increase from a low rental will appear as a large percentage increase."
It noted that monthly hawker stall rents can be as low as a few hundred dollars, or even $1.
Food consultant and hawker champion KF Seetoh said on Facebook on Friday that the hawker stall's rent would be raised by almost 40 per cent.
He questioned the increase, saying that hawkers were still struggling to make ends meet even though Singapore lifted its dining in ban on Monday (June 21). When asked whether NEA’s response was referring to Mr Seetoh’s Facebook post, the agency did not confirm this.
Mr Seetoh told The Straits Times on Saturday that the timing of the increase was insensitive, given how hawkers were badly hit due to work from home remaining as the default arrangement.
He declined to name the hawker centre where the stall he was referring to was located, but said that the hawker was based in town.
The founder of the Makansutra food guide said: "Hawkers play a crucial role in our society, offering affordable fare to feed the masses comfortably and very reasonably."
"NEA should not apply professional valuers' market pricing policy on a public institution like hawker centres."
As part of efforts to help hawkers tide through the Covid-19 pandemic, NEA froze rental increases from April 1 last year to March 31 this year.
Five months' worth of rental waivers were previously given to around 14,000 market and cooked-food stallholders last year, during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
Hawkers also benefited from rental waivers in May and June this year amid a spike in Covid-19 infections during the phase two (heightened alert) period.