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Old 22-07-2003, 03:47 PM   #6
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Join Date: Jul 2000
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converting a shophouse to a hostel? if this is approve, i think many will follow.... :rolleyes:

From TODAY, 22 July 2003

The HDB hurdles

Man's efforts to turn shophouse into hostel bear fruit

by Tor Ching Li

WHAT'S the difference between a backpackers' hostel and a hotel?

None, according to the Housing Development Board (HDB), which classifies both under the same category.

Coupled with its insistence that "HDB flats cannot be used for the boarding and lodging of tourists", hostelier-wannabe and backpacking enthusiast, Mr Yang (as he prefers to be known) told Today that he is on the verge of "closing (his) HDB hostel even before it is opened".

Based on the current leeway that shophouse-owners can sublet their living quarters for residential or commercial purposes, the 34-year-old had sent in a proposal to the HDB to convert the three-room living quarters above his father's shophouse in Woodlands into a "family-run homestay-style backpackers' hostel".

When this entrepreneurial attempt was rejected, Mr Yang appealed to the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP), which managed to get the HDB to grant him "in principal approval". This was on condition that the requirements of "all other competent authorities" were met.

One such authority was the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which gave Mr Yang the go-ahead as the proposed living quarters do not share a common access and lobby with other residential units. Mr Yang forked out $800 for the Change of Use fee.

However, the HDB then wanted him to engage a professional engineer to install an automatic fire alarm system. A second appeal to the PEP managed to get the HDB to waive this requirement from the Fire Safety and Shelter Bureau to a manual fire alarm instead.

The HDB also capped his maximum number of backpacker tenants at eight, instead of his proposed 12, a requirement he is appealing against.

Said the HDB in an e--mail reply: "We understand that the shop-owner will want to maximise his economic returns by accommodating more backpackers."

"But we will need to limit the number of occupants in the living quarters mainly to minimise disturbance to the residents, to prevent overcrowding and ensure that the structural loading is not exceeded."

There is currently no restriction on the number of occupants for normal residential use.

"I'm not going to become a millionaire from this; it's hard work," said a frustrated Mr Yang who plans to quit his current job if the hostel idea goes through.

"Restricting the number to eight means that I will have to charge higher fees (than $20 a night)."

Mr Yang is waiting for his third appeal (regarding tenant cap in numbers) via the PEP to the HDB to be processed.

"One needs to have good stamina to overcome the many obstacles along the path to setting up a small business in Singapore," he said.
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