Horsham has topped a list of Britain's housing hotspots, according to a survey published today.

Would-be first-time buyers priced out of the market by the property boom are whipping up demand for rented homes.

Landlords in the town can expect to have empty properties snapped up in less than a week.

The scramble for one- and two-bed flats is pushing up prices, with a year-on-year increase of around 10 per cent.

The most modest studio apartment rents for at least £500 a month.

The knock-on effect is being felt by Horsham District Council which has seen the number of applications for social housing double in the past two years.

The council is in talks with the local branch of the YMCA to set up a direct-access hostel in anticipation of a rise in homelessness.

Peter Baxter, property manager for Countywide Residential Lettings in The Carfax, said: "If I had 20 new flats now I could let them all in a fortnight.

"Horsham is close to Gatwick and attracts people who work at the airport. There are excellent road and rail links to London and it's a very nice place to live."

The survey shows people aged between 25 and 35 account for 47 per cent of all tenants.

The Residential Lettings report for Investor Landlords, carried out for Bradford and Bingley Letting Agents, suggests investors may turn to property in the face of stock market uncertainty.

John Crossley, head of B&B Letting Agents, said: "As global stock markets remain volatile buying property to let is continuing to prove an attractive option."

Paul Seaward, the district council's homelessness officer, said: "The average family with children simply can't afford to live here and because the private sector is so expensive no one can afford to move on, so the supply-and-demand tree isn't working."