Cities across Southern England could help deliver a quick boost to the economy if they were given funds to build more houses, according to a new report.
The Centre for Cities research group said "rapid" results would be seen in areas such as Oxford, London, Cambridge, Brighton and Bournemouth if the Government made sure they had access to funds.
The UK is building 100,000 fewer homes every year than is required to keep pace with demand, with over 230,000 new houses a year needed in England alone, the report stated.
Different parts of the country should be given flexibility to use funding which best tackles housing shortages in their region, rather than having a nationwide policy, it was suggested.
Policies should be focused on areas where economic growth is strong and demand for housing is high, said the group, adding that up to 150,000 jobs would be created, many low-skilled, if an extra 100,000 houses were built in the year ahead.
Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: "The housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing the UK's economy.
"Cities must have the freedoms and flexibilities to make decisions about housing policy based on local circumstances.
"For some cities, lack of housing prevents people accessing jobs or means they are stuck in cramped accommodation.
"In other cities, incentives to retrofit empty houses could improve local quality of life.
"Both approaches, adapted to local needs, would generate the jobs and growth the UK needs."
Mike Jones of the Local Government Association, which sponsored the report, said: "Councils are working with developers to provide more new homes for people but if government released local authorities from some of the restrictions it imposes on them, they could do so much more.
"If government scrapped the unnecessary cap it has placed on the amount councils can borrow to invest in housing, local authorities could build 60,000 homes and invest more in bringing existing properties up to scratch."
Cities such as Burnley, Bradford, Hull, Blackpool and Dundee would benefit from funds to help transform existing homes, the report said.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The Government is determined that councils gain more control and is ensuring cities get the boost they need through bespoke City Deals and proposals that would allow councils to pump a further £22 billion of pension fund investments into infrastructure such as housing.
"We are also pulling out all the stops to get Britain building and deliver the homes this country needs, which is why despite the need to cut the deficit, we are investing £19.5 billion public and private funding in an affordable homes programme set to deliver 170,000 new homes.