Last week the government unveiled a£2m fund for Scottish authorities to investigate the potential for transferring 200,000 homes to new-style 'social' companies financed by banks or building societies.
Ministers think they could raise the money on the open market to finance a huge repairs backlog, estimated at almost£20bn as a whole.
The initiative, which could be followed in England where 70,000 homes will be hived off this year, is seen by some town halls as a desparate attempt to 're-brand' council houses and breathe new life into the most unpopular sector of the market.
Figures shortly to be released will show that in England alone more than 82,000 council houses are empty, alongside a further 27,500 owned by government-funded housing associations, plus an additional 19,000 held by the ministry of defence.
Bob Laurence, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, says the true scale of the 'void' problem is only now coming to light because councils disguised figures during the Conservative years fearing grants would be cut.