HOMELESSNESS in the city is rising fast.

Bleak Government figures released yesterday morning exposed another sharp increase in rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.

Numbers living on the street last autumn were up almost a quarter on the previous year, with 178 people left without a roof over their heads between October 1 and November 30.

That represents a 24 per cent increase on the same period in 2016, making the city the worst area in the country outside London for rough sleeping for the second year running.

The statistics, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, showed a nationwide spike of 15 per cent – more than double the figure recorded just five years ago.

But the gap between Brighton and Hove and other local authorities widened, with percentage increases in Manchester and Bristol lagging far behind in comparison.

Homeless charity Brighton Housing Trust says the runaway housing market is partly to blame.

Chief executive Andy Winter told The Argus: “The situation in Brighton and Hove is exacerbated by the inward flow of wealthier people to the city.

“This has an inflationary impact on house prices, as does Government policy such as Help to Buy – and, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, so too will the cut in stamp duty for first-time buyers.

“Some other areas in East Sussex are in denial about the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in spite of the growing evidence that is literally on their doorsteps.”

Activist John Hadman, 78, from Hove, whose petition to persuade Brighton and Hove City Council to build permanent overnight shelters has attracted 4,900 signatures, said more houses are needed.

“We really don’t have enough housing,” he said.

“So many people are on zero hours contracts.

“How are they supposed to afford Brighton prices?

“The figures don’t surprise me at all. That is the reality we face.

“We have got to try and get those empty properties filled.”

Councillor Clare Moonan, lead councillor for rough sleeping, admitted there is a housing problem.

She said: “There is a national housing crisis and the local increase in rough sleeping is part of a shocking broader trend.

“The issue of rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove has been highlighted by government figures in previous years.

“We have been taking action and will continue to address this hardship on our streets.

“It’s a huge challenge.

“What this year’s report reveals is a dramatic rise elsewhere in the country which shows a need to look at this on a national scale to tackle the reasons why so many people are struggling.

“We’re seeing more vulnerable people sleeping rough on our streets at a time when funding from Government is being dramatically reduced, which is having an impact on services.

“We can’t do this alone so we’re linking with partners and embracing community support to see positive change.

“At the same time, there are many services already in place which are doing a fantastic job.

“We need to remember how much higher the number of rough sleepers would be without the dedication of all involved.

“The scale of the support being provided is not always apparent when looking at the sadly familiar sight of people sleeping rough.

“Yet while there is anyone sleeping rough in the city

there is still more we can and will do.”

Mr Winter said the news merely confirmed a downward trend.

“These latest figures do not come as a surprise other than that they are not much worse.

“The increase is due to the increasing unaffordability of private rented accommodation, the failure to build new social housing, and welfare reform.

“Fortunately, in Brighton and Hove we have a council that is aware of the scale of problem that works well with a number of excellent charities that prevent homelessness and help people to move off the streets.

“Without these charities the situation would be much, much worse.

“The situation will do nothing but get worse and will only get better when central Government intervenes to increase the supply of truly affordable housing for rent and reverses those policies that are resulting in homelessness and rough sleeping.”