The National Environment Agency’s (NEA) justification for increasing street vendor rents has sparked controversy online, with many internet users considering it a “cruel” move to increase rent rates during this difficult period no matter how “minor” the increase may be.
The issue was first brought up by Makansutra founder KF Seetoh on Facebook last Friday (25 June), who shared a letter from the NEA to a street vendor where the adjusted rent was “about 40 percent” higher than the previous rate.
He proceeded to criticize the agency for increasing hawker rents amid hard times, saying it was a “horrible timing” to do so now.
“Here we’re all doing our best to support hawkers, and there at the same time they’re raising hawker rents by about 40%…why oh why am I asking. You may need a refund to fill the national coffers, but do your leaders know it’s time to do it? Now, Mr. Sitoh said, “This seller has been struggling in sales this whole year.”
The next day (June 26), the NEA released a statement on Facebook explaining that rental rates for hawker kiosks “have remained unchanged over three years,” adding that monthly rents can run into a few hundred dollars, or even S$1.”
She explained that the lease renewal after three years would be based on prevailing market rates assessed by independent professional appraisers, which could be higher or lower than the previous rate.
“In recent years, the upward revision of rents at lease renewals at our hawker centers has not exceeded $300. On the other hand, there have been lease revisions downward of more than $300 upon lease renewal.
“It is misleading to look at percentage increases alone as a $300 increase from a low rent would appear as a significant percentage increase,” the agency said.
The NEA also indicated that it has frozen the rent increases from April 1 last year to March 31 this year due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency added that street vendors were provided with five months of rent exemptions and three months of subsidies for table cleaning and central dish washing services, in addition to an income exemption for self-employed individuals for a period of nine months for qualified hawkers.
However, Mr Sitoh replied that it was a question of “timing and empathy, not quantitative concessions or pre-rent concessions”.
In a Facebook post on Monday (June 28), he shared a message received by a pair of street vendors, which indicates that the amount of the rent increase offered to them has gone up from S$800 to S$1,100 per month. The date of the letter is blocked but the year the revised fee will be applied is ‘2021’.
Seetoh noted that street vendors now have to pay S$1,550 per month, adding that they have decided to close permanently when their tenure ends.
It might not sound like much to many, but the hawkers said they would accept and ‘move on’ which really means they will resign and permanently close when the term is up. This ‘slight increase’ means a lot to the hawkers. Both are now out of work and considering a move. next.
Netizens condemn NEA’s move to increase hawker booth rent even ‘slightly’
Meanwhile, many netizens have condemned the NEA’s move to increase hawker booth rent, saying it’s ‘bad timing’ to force a ‘slight’ increase now that dining restrictions have severely hampered demand and hawkers are still struggling to make a living.
Netizens wrote their thoughts in the comments section of NEA and Mothership’s Facebook posts, urging the government to freeze increases in hawker booth rent until the situation improves — or at least when group sizes for dining in restaurants are increased to more than two people.
One netizen wrote: “Increasing 100 months, means either passing the cost on to customers or selling more, if they have customers. Otherwise they are paying out of their pocket. Now adding cost is adding fuel to a fire for hawkers who are tired of fighting it over the 14 months.” The past when the measures to combat the Corona virus began in 2020.”
Another Facebook user said: “No matter how you play with the math, increasing rent during a pandemic when stores have so much less business is cruel than a people-elected government.”
Some netizens have pointed out that the NEA “gives on one hand and takes back on the other” by offering rent waivers to hawkers, and then increasing hawker booth rental rates.
“Stop saying that your stall rents are lower than commercial operation. Commercially operated kiosks cannot charge as low prices as street vendors. If we want a thriving hawker culture that has many benefits, we need to support them with subsidized rents to make it an attractive place for the younger generation to take over. responsibility,” said one netizen.
Meanwhile, a few others were wondering why the NEA thinks the 40 percent increase isn’t as high as claimed, or that the S$300 increase isn’t much for hawkers, given that this increase would still be a “significant increase” for many People.