The number of people resorting to using a credit card to pay their mortgage or rent has soared by 50 per cent in a year.
Around 6 per cent of consumers, the equivalent of nearly 2.6 million people, said they had been forced to use their plastic to keep a roof over their head during the past 12 months, up from just 4 per cent when the same research was carried out in November 2009.
Housing charity Shelter warned that the situation was "totally unsustainable" and could lead to thousands of families being pushed into a spiral of debt, eviction or repossession, and ultimately homelessness.
It warned that just one thing, such as a bout of illness, a rent increase or a drop in income, could be enough to push people into a spiral of debt and arrears that could lead to them losing their home.
It added that in very severe cases, defaulting on a credit card repayment could also lead to repossession.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "This research brings into sharp focus how keeping a roof over their head has become a daily struggle for millions across the country.
"Using credit cards to pay the rent or mortgage is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. With the average credit card interest rate now standing at over 16 per cent it is the worst possible course of action. Already someone faces the nightmare of losing their home every two minutes, and we would urge every single one of these people now relying on credit to keep their home to seek advice urgently."
The group has produced a short film, starring actress Jaime Winstone, covering the true story of an 18-year-old woman who uses her credit card to cover her rent, leaving her in debt and facing homelessness.