Upgrading works in common areas of heartland shops to get easier approval under Bill

The move to lower the threshold for upgrading to take place will allow more precincts to benefit. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Getting approval for upgrading works in the common areas of heartland shops is set to get easier, under proposed changes to the law that will be introduced in Parliament on Thursday.

Currently, 100 per cent of heartland shop owners have to approve the upgrading for works to go ahead. This threshold will be lowered to 75 per cent under an amendment in the Housing and Development Bill.

This change was first mooted in Parliament in 2020, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“Our heartland shops are a quintessential part of Singaporeans’ everyday lives. The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by HDB shops in responding to a changing business environment,” said Mr Lee.

One of the initiatives to help HDB shops remain relevant and competitive is the Revitalisation of Shops Scheme, he added.

The scheme was introduced in 2007 to support shop owners and merchant associations to improve the vibrancy and competitiveness of HDB shops by co-funding the upgrading of common areas and promotional events.

But under the current law, the support of all shop owners is required for upgrading works to commence.

The move to lower the threshold for upgrading to take place to three-quarters of shop owners approving it will therefore allow more precincts to benefit.

Since 2020 when HDB started studying the possibility of lowering the threshold, the HDB has conducted a series of consultations with different merchant associations who have expressed their support, said Mr Lee.

He added that HDB is also studying the possibility of reducing the co-payment amount for upgrading costs borne by shop owners to help make the scheme more attractive, which was a point that came up during the consultations with businesses.

HDB has around 15,000 shops spread out across town centres, neighbourhood areas and precinct shop clusters that are either rented out by the Board or owned by private operators.

In 2021, the HDB had launched a tender for an eight-month project to look into the social and economic value of HDB shops and the benefits they can bring to local communities, along with the impact Covid-19 has had on these shops.

Said Mr Lee: “We have embarked on a study some months ago to see how we can better support our HDB shops, so that they can continue to serve the needs of our residents and bring vibrancy and character to our heartlands.”

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