The government says it wants a million homes built in England by 2020, as the scale of the housing crisis is revealed in a BBC Inside Out investigation.
The National Housing Federation estimated 974,000 homes were needed between 2011 and 2014.
But figures from 326 councils showed only 457,490 were built.
Housing minister Brandon Lewis said the government aimed to see one million new homes over this Parliament to combat a “decades-old deficit”.
The federation said about 245,000 new homes were needed each year in England.
Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs, said: “In some areas, there is a drastic shortage causing prices to soar, putting homes out of the reach of many people.
“Families and young people across the country are crying out for genuinely affordable homes so they can put roots down and achieve their dreams of owning a home.
“Skyrocketing rents and ballooning house prices are eating up more and more of people’s wages and forcing people out of their local communities or into smaller, lower quality housing.
“We haven’t built enough homes in this country for decades, and if the gap between the number of households forming and the number of new homes being built continues to grow, we are in danger of not being able to house our children.”