Social housing shortages are helping to fuel a billion pound-a-year temporary accommodation sector, according to Shelter.
The charity worked with BBC’s Panorama on an investigation into the providers of temporary accommodation for homeless households in England.
It analysed Government data, as well as its own Freedom of Information requests.
Shelter’s analysis found that of the almost £1.1 billion spent on temporary accommodation by councils in England last year 86% of it went to private landlords, letting agents or companies.
It said the amount of money being paid to private accommodation providers had nearly doubled in the last five years from £490 million in 2013/14 to £939 million in 2018/19.
During the same period the number of homeless households living in private temporary accommodation has increased by 46%.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “When successive governments cut funding for social housing, they fired the starting-gun on the housing emergency we see today.
“Had the supply of social homes not dried up, fewer people would be homeless and we would not be wasting over a billion pounds a year on temporary accommodation.”
She continued: “With the Budget approaching, now is the time for the Government to reverse this historic wrong and invest in a new generation of stable social homes.”
The findings of the investigation were shown on Monday evening.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Since 2010 we have delivered over 464,000 new affordable homes, including 141,000 social homes, with the number on the social housing waiting list decreasing by 37% since 2012.
“Last year we delivered more homes than any year in the last 30 years and will deliver a million more this parliament. We have also abolished the borrowing cap so councils can build more social homes, giving families the chance to find somewhere safe and secure.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “The increasing use of temporary accommodation is not only financially unsustainable for councils but it hugely disruptive for those families placed in such accommodation.
“Every instance of homelessness is an individual tragedy and councils are determined to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place and support families affected.
“Councils need to keep 100% of the receipts of any homes they sell to replace them and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes they desperately need and the ability to adapt welfare reforms to prevent people from losing their home where possible.”