Thousands of families could be forced out of their homes by a "perfect storm" of rent rises, short-term tenancies and the recession, the National Housing Federation warned today.
It said many had already been battered by the tempest, with 1,660 families and pregnant women living out of suitcases in B&Bs between January and March this year - 60 per cent more than in 2011.
And of these more than a third had been homeless for over six weeks, the maximum stay allowed by law.
That's triple the 2010 figures.
Yet not a single government department keeps track after six weeks, meaning no-one knows just how long it takes to find them a home.
National Housing Federation chief David Orr said Housing Minister Mark Prisk's new powers to pass homeless families back to any willing private landlord would simply create a "revolving-door effect," with families unable to afford eye-watering market rents.
"With increasing rents, insecure short-term rental tenancies and a recession which is leaving people really struggling, we have a perfect storm - and it means families who never dreamed of being homeless could end up on the streets.
"They are the new face of England's homeless," he said.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman claimed that the federation's comments were "slightly dubious."
Rehoused families continued to receive "still pretty generous" housing benefits, he said, but this will be capped at £500 a week from next April.
The spokesman refused to say whether the government was considering tracking the length of stay in B&Bs beyond six weeks, saying: "What's important is that they're not there longer."
The federation's report comes just days after homeless charity Shelter warned that 75,000 children in Britain will spend Christmas without a home.
Chief executive Campbell Robb said people often thought of homelessness as single people sleeping rough.
But that ignored the rising numbers of families who losed their home through no fault of their own, he said.
"For people with children, 'sofa surfing' with friends just isn't a realistic option."
Meanwhile squatters' rights group Squash savaged new laws enacted in September to make squatting in empty homes a crime.
Campaigner Catherine Brogan told the Star that it was clear to many families that the government wasn't going to provide for them.
"Squatting is never enjoyable. People squat because they're homeless and they're desperate. But what would you prefer?"
The situation would only get worse as the recession continued, she said.
"We're going to see a lot of families doing what they have to do to keep a roof over their head."
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