Councils have called on the Government to use its White Paper to give them powers to take action on unbuilt land that has planning permission.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said English councils wanted it to be easier to compulsory purchase land where homes remain unbuilt and to be able to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.
Its call comes after LGA analysis found more than a million homes granted permission in the past decade have not yet been built.
Latest figures showed that 2.6m units have been granted permission by councils since 2009/10 while only 1.5m have been completed.
The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012/13, with councils approving 9 in 10 applications.
LGA housing spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said: ‘The number of homes granted planning permission has far outpaced the number of homes being built.
‘Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and house building has stalled.’
Lib Dem housing spokesman Tim Farron added: 'It is deeply disappointing to see major developers failing to build new homes despite councils granting planning permission.
'With such a large number of projects stagnating, the Conservative Government must give new powers to councils to hold to account companies buying up land for development, but failing to deliver when it comes to construction.'