People in Crawley are more than twice as likely to have their homes repossessed as those in Brighton and Hove.

The stark differences in communities just 20 miles apart have been uncovered following research carried out by homeless group Shelter.

Charities and politicians have said the findings were worrying.

Sussex’s most at risk residents are those living in Crawley, with those in areas such as Horsham and Chichester only a third as likely to suffer the same fate.

In Crawley, 140 possession claims – 4.21 for every 1,000 homes in the borough – were made last year, putting the area in the top 30% of repossession hotspots nationally.

Second highest in Sussex was Hastings with 120 claims at a rate of 3.34 per 1,000 homes, followed by Eastbourne’s 115 at 2.83 per 1,000 homes.

'Close to the edge'

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “Most people think that repossession will never happen to them, however rising unemployment, high living costs and high house prices mean that many people in the South East are living close to the edge already, and risk falling into a spiral of debt and repossession.”

In comparison to Crawley, just two out of every 1,000 homes in Brighton and Hove were repossessed and 2.21 per 1,000 in Lewes.

Crawley councillor Michael Jones said: “For there to be that kind of difference across such a small geographical area is worrying.

"We need to discover why this is happening and act on it quickly.”

Fellow Crawley councillor Peter Lamb said: “We currently have 3,000 on our waiting list for social housing, 1,500 of which are in urgent need. However, we have just a few hundred houses available every year.

“It really is a housing crisis.”

Charlie Arratoon, from Crawley’s Open House homeless shelter, said: “We have seen a huge rise in people coming to us after their homes have been repossessed.

“When they are faced with a choice of feeding themselves or paying rent or the mortgage they have to go for the former.

“We are constantly full and have to turn people away on a regular basis.”