Nearly half of Croydon’s homeless families have been living in temporary accommodation for more than three years, it has been revealed, sparking calls for urgent action to tackle the borough’s housing crisis.

Dozens of families have been waiting for a permanent home for more than a decade, a duration described by a charity this week as “absurd”.

Some 3,125 families in Croydon were in temporary lodgings as of February this year.

Of those, 1,120 had been waiting for a home for three to five years, 237 had been on the list for five to 10 years and 92 others had been waiting for more than a decade.

Last year, 880 families applied to be registered as homeless – a 15 per cent increase on 2013-14 –prompting fears the crisis would deepen.

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Jad Adams, chairman of homelessness charity Nightwatch charity, said: “These figures don’t surprise me. It is extremely depressing that we have seen this coming. It is getting worse and worse and no end is clearly in sight.

"The overall problem is that people are in these hostels for too long.

"I have been helping rehome people who have been in these hostels for five years or for seven years and that is really an absurd amount of time to be spending in temporary accommodation.”

Edel Marshall, 30, lived in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation – the last resort for councils when no other temporary lodgings are available – for eight months while waiting for a home.

Croydon Council housed her family of five in Stanthorpe Hotel, Streatham, which Mrs Marshall said was riddled with rats and cockroaches, leaving them in a “state of panic”.

The mother-of-three said: “There were droppings underneath the bed two of my children were sleeping in.

“My one-year-old was trapped in a cot because I don’t want him crawling around the place.”

The family moved into a house in South Croydon on Friday.

This week the council launched a consultation on changes to its housing allocations scheme to tackle rising demand for temporary accommodation.

The council spent £4.8m on temporary accommodation last year, up from £1.8m four years ago.

It expects that to rise to £5.4m in 2015-16.

Proposals for tackling the problem include prioritising homelessness prevention, tripling the one-year requirement of residency in the borough before someone qualifies for the housing register, and introducing a choice-based lettings system to shift the onus of finding a home from the council onto the tenant.

Councillor Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “We know we need more and better quality temporary accommodation, we know that we need to supply social housing.

“What we are doing now is a whole load of work to make it easier for people to access accommodation.

“It is about working with people and, I don’t mind saying, getting people to take more responsibility about what they do and what options are open to them.

“If they need to get into employment, if they are not claiming the right benefits, if there is a childcare issues or a health problems within the family that is meaning they aren’t able to get it together in order to pay their rent or it is making it increasingly difficult for them then the council can help with that.

“Financially it helps the council because it doesn’t pick up a family as homeless but, even better than that, it helps the family because they don’t become homeless.”

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Mr Adams urged the council to be “much faster” at freeing up buildings for housing, adding: “They need to create more housing and convert existing buildings that could be housing into accommodation for people.

“We shouldn’t be relying on bed-and-breakfast, which is the most expensive way, in looking after people.”

Some 808 families lived in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Croydon at the turn of the year.

Mr Adams added Nightwatch had seen a shift in the type of people becoming homeless, due to landlords evicting tenants to develop their properties.

Mr Adams said: “People who are perfectly good tenants who paid their rent and always behaved themselves are being evicted so that properties can be developed.

“That is the main cause of new homelessness in Croydon now.”