HDB Commercial Rules and Outdoor Display Areas Management

MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Sir, HDB town centres are hive of activity, particularly on weekends. HDB retail shop fronts near commercial centres close to MRT stations and major infrastructure enjoy high footfall. The same cannot be said for all HDB retail shops, particularly those in smaller or more isolated HDB commercial areas.

Over the last few years, an itinerant industry of shopfront traders have emerged, particularly in smaller commercial areas, moving from place to place and securing outdoor display areas or outdoor display areas (ODAs) space directly from shop owners or lessees for a few hours each day.

The HDB Commercial department rules currently require that commercial shops are required to display the same trade items in their respective ODAs. This is a legacy rule. Today, however, it is not uncommon to see this particular rule generally disregarded with some ODAs rented and sublet out to itinerant traders for a few hours each day.

I would imagine that one of the ostensible purposes for HDB Commercial department to establish the rule against the display of dissimilar ODA goods would be to ensure that there is not an excess of one type of trade in the area where a broad range of goods and services are usually available. 

While the number of itinerant traders can be small and constantly varies, they do raise accusations of unfair competition amongst some HDB commercial and retail shop owners and lessees who: one, adhere to the rules and do not sublet their ODA; and two, display the same items in the ODAs as they do in their shops.

For their part, Town Councils extend the use of ODA to shopkeepers and lessees and have powers to revoke ODAs if necessary. When such powers are used in keeping with the spirit of the HDB Commercial rule that ODAs are only to be used for the display of similar trade items that are found in the shops, some itinerant traders and the lessees or owners of the shops that sublet their ODA questioned why such rules are not enforced in other commercial areas where they operate as well.

I would like to inquire if the expectations of HDB commercial towards Town Councils in enforcing the rules and the approaches to the management of the ODA regarding the display of items are consistent in all areas where there are HDB commercial and retail shops, such as town centres. Does the HDB entertain exceptions to the aforesaid rules that can be sought with the approval of the HDB Commercial section to allow itinerant traders to sell their goods at the ODAs? That could be some reasons for this. For example, in view of a possible imbalance of shops in a typical area or because of the limited variety of shops in a commercial area or simply to encourage vibrancy. I would be grateful for some clarity in this regard.

Ministry of National Development
2 March 2023


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