HDB monitors coffeeshops’ food prices, will review policies to address concerns where necessary: Desmond Lee

The Housing and Development Board monitors food prices at both privately-owned and rental coffeeshops and will review policies to address affordability concerns where necessary, assured National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

In a Facebook post on Jul 15, Minister Lee wrote that despite the recent multi-million dollar transaction prices at coffeeshops at Tampines and Yishun, recent media stories with price comparisons showed that the higher transaction prices did not translate into price hikes.

This is due to the healthy competition located within the vicinity.

For the Tampines coffeeshop, there are four other coffeeshops nearby, while the one at Yishun faces competition from six other coffeeshops nearby, he said.

This competition gives consumers choice to seek more affordable options if the prices at one coffeeshop are too high. Likewise for stallholders, who have the option to move to other eating establishments if the rents are too high.

Privately-owned and rental coffeeshops

There are two types of coffeeshops in Singapore: privately-owned and rental.

Prior to 1998, HDB sold coffeeshops to private operators. But from 1998, HDB stopped doing so and new coffeeshops, also known as rental coffeeshops, were rented out to operators to run.

Minister Lee said that there are about 400 privately-owned and 370 rental coffeeshops in HDB estates. He added that more is on the way, having completed 34 coffeeshops in the past four years and another 30 will be built by 2025. Other than these coffeeshops, there are also more than 100 hawker centres in Singapore with new ones on the way.

In the case of rental coffeeshops, HDB introduced Price-Quality tenders in 2018 to look at whether operators have budget meals, good track record and community initiatives.

Such tenders are also lower and more sustainable than under pure price-bidding tenders, he said. And that’s why successful operators under the Price-Quality tender can provide budget food options at every stall at around S$3.

“HDB also works closely with social enterprises such as NTUC FoodFare and Kopitiam to provide affordable budget meal options at these coffeeshops,” he wrote.

Minister Lee also noted that there have been many suggestions from the public such as buying back coffeeshops and imposing tighter controls on the rental or food prices in these privately-owned shops.

He assured Singaporeans that HDB will review its policies to address affordability where necessary.