More than 380,000 homes granted planning permission between 2011 and 2019 remain unbuilt, according to new research from housing charity Shelter.
Using data from the Government and the House Builders Federation, the organisation found the missing homes accounted for 40% of all approved sites and warned Downing Street’s new planning reforms will not go far enough to address the UK’s housing shortage.
The backlog of unbuilt homes has grown by a further 100,000 in the last year alone, it added.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The chronic shortage of decent, genuinely affordable homes in this country is one that must be fixed. But the Government’s planning reforms fundamentally misdiagnose the problem.
“The idea that the planning system is stopping homes being built is a myth. Across the country hundreds of thousands of ‘phantom homes’ sit on sites with planning permission fully approved. Rubber stamps are no replacement for direct investment in high-quality housing.
“The Government must roll up its sleeves and build the homes local communities really need, now more than ever in the face of a Covid-recession.
“It should spend the cash it’s set aside for housing that much faster and start building social homes now. The only way we are going to start building what we need is through pounds, not planning.”
In 2018 a Government review found that some private developers will hold back construction if there is a risk of over-supply pushing down house prices, with Shelter arguing this must be addressed first.
Bosses added Chancellor Rishi Sunak should consider increasing spending on social housing with rents pegged to local income.
The data comes as residential property developers face an investigation over property sales where leases were allegedly mis-sold.