2:10pm Friday 16th March 2012
By Neil Vowles and Rebecca Evans
More and more families are being forced from their homes and into emergency accommodation because they cannot afford to pay the bills.
The number of people in temporary accommodation in Brighton and Hove has almost doubled in three years.
A surge in people losing their homes combined with cuts in housing benefit has left councils struggling to find places for them to stay.
The Argus has learned the number of families declaring themselves homeless in the city has hit a four-year peak – 312 families turned to the council for emergency housing in 2011 – an increase of nearly 100 compared to 2010.
But the number of single adults actually dropped from 188 in 2010 to 123 in 2011.
In total 458 homeless applications were made to the council last year.
The latest statistics reveal there were a total of 667 people living in temporary housing in the city with about 139 people having to be put up in bed and breakfasts.
That is up from 366 at the beginning of 2009 when an average of 131 were housed in bed and breakfasts.
Council officials said while the number of single people asking for emergency accommodation fell last year, the number of families needing help dramatically increased.
Brighton and Hove City Council was forced to spend £10 million on temporary housing in 2011 – a cost refunded by the Government.
Many of those on the brink had lost their jobs and been unable to pay the bills.
There has been a 10% increase in the number of unemployed people in Sussex in the last three months.
The situation is expected to worsen over the next 12 months as hundreds more people in the public sector in Sussex lose their jobs because of central government cuts.
Cuts to housing benefit mean landlords earn less from letting homes to councils and has also led to some owners taking their properties away from local authorities – instead offering them at higher rates to private tenants.
Tony Greenstein, of Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers’ Centre, said the figures were the worst he had ever known but feared they rise again rapidly this year.
He said: “It’s going to get much, much worse when the cap on housing benefit is introduced in April.
“At the moment interest rates are low which means that people can still pay their mortgage but if those rise you will see repossessions soar and scenes like in the US where people defend their streets against bailiffs."
A council spokesman said: “We face a chronic housing shortage in Brighton and Hove and the demand for social housing is rising.
“But as a council we’re determined to build more new homes, improve our existing homes and bring long term empty homes back into use in a sustainable way.”
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