“What’s the point of a single mother in a rented apartment?” That is what energy expert Joannes Laveyne (UGent) said about the measures taken by the Consultation Committee this week. The morning spoke to three tenants. ‘Suffer or pay: that’s the message I get from politics.’
‘My landlords were also shocked by the indexed rent’
Joris Lambin (34), servant and single
“I have been living in my apartment since 2020, which I started to rent for 780 euros per month. After a year, that has become 798 euros. Now my landlords announced that according to the government tool, the rent would be 875 euros per month in October. They themselves are also shocked by this. So they make a gesture and raise the amount to 830 euros per month.
“Obviously that remains a big difference, even for someone with a fairly good income like me. I work for a CPAS. My wages are therefore normally indexed properly. But in May I had surgery on my foot. I am still recovering from that. So I live on a sickness benefit. That makes it extra difficult.
“But even with my full wages, it would be difficult. On top of the rent, there are also the increased energy prices. Last year in November I was just able to conclude an energy contract with a fixed rate. So I already know that my advance may double this autumn.
“At the moment it is not easy to make ends meet. I only buy the bare necessities. I try to keep clothes, books or other forms of entertainment that cost money to a minimum. While I didn’t really have to worry about that before. I will also lower the heating in the winter and only take a short shower.
“Whether the measures of the Consultation Committee have helped me? I feel a little bit that the VAT on energy has been reduced from 21 percent to 6 percent. But it remains a drop in the bucket, while energy prices more than double. In any case, this situation has ensured that my partner and I move in together more quickly. In the past, we might have waited another six months or a year. Now we want it and it is simply the best option financially.”
‘Last year had to draw on savings to be able to pay energy bill’
Helena* (40) has a partner. They both work
My daughter was born in February. We hung flags to celebrate. As I sat on the couch, I noticed that the flags moved when the wind was blowing hard outside. So no, our rental house is not well insulated. We also notice this in our energy bills. Last year our bill for gas and electricity was 8,000 euros. We then had to use all our savings to pay that amount. The day before yesterday we saw what the energy supplier now proposes as an advance for the coming year per month: 700 euros for electricity and 1,800 for gas. Until now, that was together 541 euros.
“Will that work? No. We have zero point zero savings left. In addition, the rent has been saved by another 75 euros due to the indexation. Then there’s not much you can do about it. However, my husband and I both work 26 hours a week, he as a self-employed person more than a normal, full-time working week. Together we must be able to feed and drink four children.
“This week our landlady asked how we were doing. Then I told her about our advance invoices and the flags. She was shocked and wanted to help. She suggested that we purchase and install all the insulation material and she would pay it back. Sorry, but we just don’t have time for that. As a landlord, it is only obligatory to provide roof insulation and double glazing. That does matter.
“When I hear that according to Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) this is part of renting, I think: what else can we do? We can’t set aside enough to buy – we’ve already inquired about that. Because we had to use our savings last year, we can’t even go anywhere else to rent. There is simply no money left to pay the deposit.”
* Helena is a pseudonym. Her real name is known to the editors.
‘I still pay more than a hundred euros more than before, while I hardly use any gas anymore’
Natasha Eight (47), servant and single mother of three children
“Since last year, my energy bill has more than doubled, from 130 to 280 euros. That’s why I’ve been turning on my heating less since December. I live in a terraced house, so luckily it never gets colder than 16 degrees here. Last winter we just put on a thick bathrobe. This winter we will have to do the same. There is still an electric fire in the children’s room, so if they are really cold, they can still turn it on.
“As a result of these interventions, my bill has dropped again to 230. That is still 100 euros more than before, while I actually use almost no gas anymore. I am still lucky that I live in a social housing, which means that the rent is not too bad. The insulation is also okay here. But because it’s a social home, I don’t think the landlord will invest in solar panels anytime soon. I am also not entitled to the social rate. You earn too much for that.
“I also did a second flexi job for a while. But in the summer I had to undergo major surgery. As a result, I can no longer do that second job for the time being and I have to make do with what I have. For now, I have to spend every month on my savings account. Everything I get extra from holiday pay or year-end bonus, I immediately put aside to live on for the coming months. And I try to cycle to work and the store as often as possible.
“I have only followed the Consultation Committee with half an eye, because I no longer have any real faith in the government. I think it will be every man for himself soon. Suffering or paying: that’s the message I’ve been getting from politics for a long time. But I certainly don’t feel like a victim, rather combative. By using the resources I have creatively myself, things will get better.”