car dependency, thermal solar, modest incomes, why Hauts-de-France households are particularly vulnerable

INSEE Hauts-de-France has published a study on the impact of inflation on individuals. With a high proportion of low-income households, a strong dependence on the car and a significant energy vulnerability, the inhabitants of the region are hard hit by the price increases.

For several months now, inflation numbers have been staggering. According to INSEE, almost all staple foods increased between July 2021 and July 2022: +7.6% for bread and cereals, +8% for milk, cheese and eggs and even +21.2% for oils and fats. At the same time, the price of gas, fuel oil and petrol has risen sharply.

In this context, shopping for a family can be a real headache for the poorest. In 2019, low-income households represented 27.4% of the population of Hauts-de-France, or 1.6 million people. In certain territories such as Calais, Avesnois, the mining basin or the Creilloise region, this proportion even exceeds 30% and can go up to 40%.

If we do not know the poverty figures for the year 2022, Sabine Chèvre,
manager of one of the Restos du Coeur centers in Arras, has already noticed an increase in the number of beneficiaries. In this new school year, she sees more and more workers arriving who can no longer make ends meet.

There are those who at the end of the month have to choose between putting gas in the car and eating. If they need the car to go to work, the choice is quick, and this is where Restos du Coeur comes into the picture“, she explains. Because the increase in the price of fuel weighs heavily on the wallets of the region’s residents: Almost 9 home-to-work trips of more than 5 kilometers out of 10 are made here by car.

In some rural areas, in the absence of satisfactory alternatives, mobility is completely dependent on the car. And while the price of fuel is starting to fall slightly, it has seen spectacular increases over the year, surpassing two euros per liter in June.

I went from 100 euros of diesel per month to more than 200 eurossorry single mom who benefits from Restos du Coeur. There I will resume an activity, but I will have to limit travel, take the bus.

Added to this is the increase in the price of gas and electricity, which indicates the worst for the winter, which is fast approaching. “I come here to Restos, to the solidarity grocery store, to be able to save money to pay the bills“, says the young woman.

Between June 2021 and June 2022, the price of gas increased by almost 50%. Except in Hauts-de-France, half of the homes use town gas as their main heating source. On the fuel side, it’s even worse. In the same period, the price has almost doubled. A hard blow for the Axonais and the Samaritans: more than 17% of them heat themselves with fuel oil.

Not to mention that our region is the third most affected by energy vulnerability. “In Hauts-de-France, before the energy price increases at the beginning of 2022, almost every fifth household was already in a situation of energy vulnerability, a proportion 4 points higher than the average for the province“, INSEE specifies in its study.

The situation is so critical that Restos du Coeur has decided to review their calculation method to determine who can benefit from their services. “When we make registrations, we take into account on the one hand the resources of the people received, and on the other hand their expenses, especially the rent and their debts, if there are any. There we will be forced to integrate the amount of their energy costs into the calculation because people can no longer do it” explains Sabine Chèvre. She therefore expects to start the winter campaign with many more registrants.

The Institute for Statistical Studies estimates that some areas are even in a state of “double vulnerability”, combining energy-intensive housing, also called “thermal sieves”, and modest incomes.

These are mainly rural areas, even peri-urban areas, such as Thiérache, Avesnois, the eastern part of the Somme and the southern part of Pas-de-Calais.

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