Vendors at the Sungei Road flea market hoping to eke out a living at hawker centres islandwide will get more help, with more stalls now set aside for them and rental rebates given to assist in their move.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said that more than 40 lock-up stalls, up from the previous figure of 30, have been set aside at market rent, which ranges from $240 to $900.
With a month to go before Singapore's last free hawking zone is closed, NEA said that 27 of around 200 Sungei Road Hawking Zone (SRHZ) sellers have already been allocated these lock-up stalls.
These include stalls at Chinatown Market, Golden Mile Centre, North Bridge Road Market and Food Centre, Tekka Market, Upper Cross Street Market, Bendeemer Market and Block 210, Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market.
NEA said some vendors have begun operating at their lock-up stalls, offering second-hand goods that they used to sell in Sungei Road, as well as new items.
The 11 original Sungei Road vendors who had permits to hawk at the open-air market were earlier offered a stall free for the first year and at a 50 per cent subsidy for the second year.
The other sellers are able to apply for a 50 per cent rebate on market rental for the first two years.
NEA said that the rebate is given "on a goodwill basis" to "assist SRHZ users in their transition".
Madam Tan Guo Mei, 49, who had been hawking in Sungei Road for about five years, is one such beneficiary. Besides selling second-hand collectibles, she has started selling new shoes at her 2.5m by 2.6m stall at Chinatown Market which opened for business on Wednesday.
"In Sungei Road, if it rains, we cannot do business, but here, it is very comfortable and I don't have to worry about the weather. I can also keep my items at the stall and lock it up," said Madam Tan yesterday.
However, she added that she is still uncertain if she will be able to make enough to pay the monthly rent of $570, excluding rebates.
"I feel that there is still a demand for second-hand items, but people may not know that I have moved here yet," she said, adding that she would still go back to Sungei Road on the weekends to hawk her items, before it closes for good on July 10.
She used to take home around $800 a month, enough to feed her family, comprising her husband in his 60s and two sons, aged 14 and 17. For a start, she has had to raise the prices at her stall by $1 to $5.
Said Madam Tan, who has lost her hearing in both ears and relies on hearing aids: "I am not afraid of hard work. I just hope the Government will be able to continue to help me with my rent, until I am able to cope on my own."