There are nearly 75,000 homes in the East Midlands and Eastern England waiting to be built after being given planning permission.
New research by the Local Government Association shows the backlog has grown by nearly 16% in the last year.
It now takes 40 months on average for building work to be finished after planning permission was granted.
"To tackle the new homes backlog and to get the country building again, councils also need the freedom to borrow and invest in desperately needed new homes," LGA housing spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said.
"Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 house building target set by the Government on their own.
"We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again."