The disclosure prompted condemnation of the government's housebuilding record. For decades more homes have remained available than the number of households. Only 162,000 new homes were built in 2000-01. The figure is lower than in any year since 1927, except the war years, and takes Britain's housing stock to 21.1 million homes - less than households needing homes.
Housing groups point out that the government has received huge financial benefits from the house-price boom. Annual receipts from stamp duty on home sales has soared from£675m to£2.2bn since Labour came to power, largely due to rising house prices. Inheritance tax payments have also risen by more than 50% as the value of tens of thousands of homes has risen above the£250,000 threshold for the 40% tax.
Yet as this cash flows into the exchequer, the government's grant to the Housing Corporation to help build new homes for low paid workers this year is only£1.2bn. At just over 3%, the proportion of Britain's national income spent on housing remains lower than almost every industrialised country.
The figures also reignited the 'not in my backyard' insistence in many areas that no new development will be allowed. Pierre Williams, of the Housebuilders' Federation, said: 'The reality is that a 30-year campaign by the anti-housebuilding lobby, coupled with a collapse in public investment in housing, has resulted in a society unable to house itself.
'Far from concreting over the countryside, urban expansion takes up only 1% of England's land area every 50 years'.
Shelter policy director Alastair Jackson said more families with children were spending increasingly lengthy periods in cramped bed and breakfasts and other temporary accomodation. More investment in public housing was 'an absolute priority'.
Shelter estimates that about 90,000 council or housing associationhomes needed to be built every year for a decade. Only around half of this number are built.
Liberal Democrat DTLR spokesman Don Foster said: 'It's a huge condemnation that all political parties have failed to address this issue. The staggering fact is we still have 750,000 homes sitting empty across the country. It's terrible that we've failed to bring those homes back into use'.
The price of an average home is already£101,000 - out of the reach of an average wage-earner on£23,600 a year. A forecast last week suggested prices might treble by 2020.