RISING rents charged by landlords in Oxford are now so high that Oxford City Council broke a law because it could not house a homeless family.

The local authority said in a report that several families had lost their private accommodation "through no fault of their own", because landlords were seeking higher market rates.

It recorded 107 homeless families in the last financial year – April 2014 to March 2015 – but has this year already recorded 128. 

In September there was an "unexpected" spike in homeless families and the council said this led to one being housed in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation for more than six weeks – a practice outlawed by the government.

The council said it had reported itself to the Department for Communities and Local Government, adding that the breach was the first it had made since the law's introduction in 2004.

There were newly-built properties to house homeless families and more temporary accommodation was also being looked at to cut down the numbers using B&Bs, it added.

It comes after city council deputy leader Ed Turner warned homelessness represented "the greatest pressure" on services in Oxford.

Next week he will tell councillors: "It is now almost impossible to find a property in the privately rented sector affordable at housing benefit levels, putting local families in a difficult position."

As reported by the Oxford Mail, the local authority is set to spend about £5m on a new homeless housing scheme with Real Assets Lettings and St Mungos Broadway.

The scheme will provide around 50 properties for homeless families in and around the city.

The council currently spends £1.4m a year on homelessness.

Executive board member for housing Mike Rowley said: "We do not wish to see any family staying in temporary accommodation longer than necessary.

"The council works incredibly hard to make sure families have a permanent roof over their head, and has received national awards for its service. 

“However, as a city we are facing acute pressure on housing, and finding suitable permanent accommodation in the city is now exceptionally difficult.

"Private landlords can obtain significantly higher rents from those earning more money or students, and we have significant pressures on council housing.

"The council is doing everything in its power to tackle this problem."