According to figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 8 March, 48,510 households across England were accepted as homeless by local authorities in 2011Three quarters of these households contain children.
Charities have described a "perfect storm" as rising repossession rates and unemployment drive thousands more families into temporary accommodation.
The housing and homelessness charity Shelter says that 12,830 homeless applications were accepted between October and December 2011 - a rise of 18 per cent since the same time the previous year.
In London, the figures show a 36 per cent rise over the same period.
In seven London boroughs – including Ealing, Bexley and Waltham Forest - the number of homeless households has more than doubled over twelve months, with the biggest rise in Hounslow at 245 per cent
The National Statistics on Statutory Homelessness showed 48,920 households to be in temporary accommodation at the end of last year, which is two per cent higher than on the same date in 2010.
The figures come days after official statistics showed the number of rough sleepers in England had gone up by 20 per cent. They record households which local authorities have recognised as unintentionally homeless and have accepted a duty to house.
Increasingly, people are being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation, with the use of this arrangement up 37 per cent on the previous year after falling for many years.
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: "Our worst fears are coming to pass. We face a perfect storm of economic downturn, rising joblessness and soaring demand for limited affordable housing combined with government policy to cut housing benefit plus local cuts to homelessness services."
Campbell Robb, Shelter's Chief Executive,, said: ‘These figures are a shocking reminder of the divide between the housing haves and have nots in this country.
‘Amid growing economic gloom and rising unemployment, increasing numbers of ordinary families are falling victim to our housing crisis. Some may be priced out of the housing market, forced to bring up their families in a revolving door of private let after private let. Others may have to leave the areas they have always called home, driven out by the cost of housing.
He concluded, ‘We must see radical, urgent action from Government to address our broken housing system, or thousands more families will suffer as a result.’
It is feared that the full force of the housing benefit cuts, which took effect for a million existing claimants on 1 January, is yet to be felt. Housing campaigners say the cuts may nonetheless be reflected in the figures as some landlords will have terminated contracts and decided not to renew tenancies.