18 August at 8 p.m
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REGION • Among other municipalities, food banks and housing associations expect an increase in households with financial problems. Energy prices are the main reason. There is already a small increase in people who can no longer cope.
A spokesman for the housing company Colorful Living: “The reports of tenants who are in trouble are increasing. We are currently seeing a slight increase in these types of reports. In particular, the settlement of the energy costs and the new installments are given as reasons for not being able to pay the rent.”
Increase in debt
Boligforeningen Lek en Waard Wonen has received 21 new files on people with rent arrears. CEO Paul Huijsdens: “But it may be more an effect of corona than of energy prices.” Huijsdens notes in current cases “a significant increase in the debt burden”. “So the sum of the arrears for the people who were already in debt has only increased further.”
Joyce Lelivelt, housing manager at Tablis Wonen: “Compared to the beginning of this year, the total rent arrears has increased by 15 percent. It’s a significant increase and I think we’re at the beginning of this situation, after all, we’re going into winter.”
Anke van Veen from the Food Bank Alblasserdam: “There have been at most five new households as a result of the energy prices. But like Food Bank Netherlands, we expect a bigger increase when it gets colder and energy contracts expire.”
Jan Verspuij, chairman of the diaconate of the Reformed Church in Giessenburg, helped ‘four-five people’ this year because they could no longer cope due to increased energy costs. The community churches started in February with the campaign ‘Pass the heat on’. Verspuij: “This campaign is still ongoing, we want to breathe new life into it in September. We think there will be more games next winter.”
Avres saw a 10 percent increase in the number of people requesting help with debt service. Avres helps residents of Gorinchem, Molenlanden and Vijfheerenlanden. Employee Hanneke Luijten: “People often try to fill one gap with another for a long time. The question is: are people paying enough in advance for their energy? If the advance was too low and if you have no reserves, it becomes a problem. We anticipate this by keeping extra capacity available for debt servicing and budget advice.”
Ask for help
Worrying as long as possible is not a good strategy, says Luijten. “It is better to look at your options in time than when you have all sorts of reminders. People can always ask for help and someone will look into it. We check if anyone is using all the schemes available. It is also possible without debt.”
Avres also offers preventive assistance. “If we see: there is a backlog in energy, health insurance or housing associations, we turn to people. That number is not changing yet. But not all energy companies deliver well yet, so we don’t have a good picture of the problem in terms of energy costs. Housing associations provide good insight. We are already seeing a completely different group and we expect it to increase. I expect to see more people who are between 120 and 150 percent of the social assistance standard. A group that works has no benefits or only a low pension.” Avres receives many questions about the energy supplement.
Evening debt problem
On Monday 22 August, Molenlanden municipality will hold an evening on debt issues for, among other things, councillors, churches and debt advisers. Jan Peter van Zoelen, municipal employee: “According to signals from our Social Teams, there is an increase in households with financial problems. In September, the municipality publishes a memorandum with measures to combat poverty, prepared with Vijfheerenlanden, Gorinchem and Avrès. One of the measures is to raise the income limit for minimum benefits from 120 to 130 percent of the social minimum. Then more people will be eligible for these facilities.”