Wednesday, 11 May 2016

More help for HDB shops through enhanced Revitalisation of Shops scheme

HDB shops to get more funds for upgrading
HDB stepping up subsidies for upgrading, hiring experts, setting up merchants' groups
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 10 May 2016

Heartland shops will soon be given more help to spruce up, and to form merchants' associations that can coordinate efforts to boost business.

To make neighbourhood shops more attractive to customers, the HDB is stepping up its subsidies for upgrading works under its Revitalisation of Shops (ROS) scheme.

Shop owners, who previously had to fork out half of the cost of upgrading common areas, will now pay 20 per cent, with a cap of $5,000.

HDB will also raise the budget of these upgrades from $20,000 to $35,000 per shop, with its subsidy capped at $30,000 per shop.

Rental shops will continue to have the entire upgrading cost paid by HDB and the town councils.

A new fund will also provide merchants' associations up to $10,000 to appoint a consultant to help them with upgrading.

These consultants could conduct surveys to understand retailers' needs and develop and plan upgrading projects, said the HDB.

In addition, neighbourhood shops without a merchants' association will have the option of forming one with a new start-up fund of $10,000. The HDB said it will work with the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore (FMAS) to help retailers do so.

The latest changes follow recommendations from the "revitalise heartland shops" committee that was set up last year to study how the ROS scheme could be improved.

The committee comprised merchants' associations, retailers and grassroots organisations.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced during this year's Budget that $15 million would be set aside annually to make heartland shops more vibrant under the ROS scheme.

It will kick in from the seventh batch of shops under the scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Introduced in 2007, the scheme aims to help HDB shops stay competitive through partial funding for upgrading and promotional events.

It is rolled out in batches, with 4,684 shops in 54 HDB town and neighbourhood centres having benefited from the scheme for upgrading and promotional events.

Of these, 16 HDB town and neighbourhood centres have undergone upgrading works and another eight are still in progress.

More than 300 promotional events have also been organised by merchants' associations under the scheme in a bid to draw customers.

Mr Ong Song Huat, 67, who owns packaging products store Lee Bee Enterprises in Jurong West, said he got new flooring in front of his shop and an automatic awning that is easier to use under the scheme.

"I had to manually wind the previously awning and it was very old and tattered," said Mr Ong, who started his business in 1983.

His neighbourhood underwent upgrading from 2013 to 2014, and his merchants' association now organises mini-fairs with getai performances and balloon sculptors.

Thye Guan Sin Nam Minimart owner Ong Kok Chee, 54, hopes the scheme will roll around to his Toa Payoh North shop, which was last upgraded in 2000. "More of our customers are going to supermarkets, where they have more options and lucky draws," he said.

Shop owners and tenants with enquiries can call the HDB Commercial Properties toll-free line on 1800-866-3073

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