The number of people on waiting lists for social housing in the West Midlands region has risen to 180,000, according to the National Housing Federation.
It said across the whole region the number had increased by 45% over the past five years.
The federation said a "massive shortage" of new homes was to blame with only 8,500 houses being built in 2011/12 compared to 15,000 in 2006/7.
The government last week relaxed planning rules to boost house building.
It said it hoped the move would provide up to 70,000 new homes across the UK and create 140,000 jobs across the construction industry.
Gemma Duggan from the federation said: "Unfortunately that's a drop in the ocean.
"There are more things that the government can do like letting public land out and changing planning permissions to get house building going.
"In the past year, we've built the fewest houses since the Second World War and we're just not going to catch up with a waiting list backlog unless we have a proper investment."
The federation figures include Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country as well as the counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and unitary authorities of Herefordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire.
It stages its annual conference at Birmingham's International Convention Centre from Monday until Wednesday.
It said the conference would debate how housing associations can help in tackling the shortage.
Carl Larter from housing and care group Midland Heart said: "Demand for homes is clearly outstripping supply.
"Housing associations like us are borrowing from banks and trying to take advantage of government subsidies to build as much as we can, so we are playing our part."
Mr Larter said that Midland Heart planned to build more than 1,500 affordable properties in the West Midlands by 2015.
The National Housing Federation said growing numbers of people on waiting lists had been priced out of the housing market.
Its figures showed house prices in Birmingham are now at an average of £153,660, an increase of 78% in 10 years.
People's wages in the city during the same time have risen by just 25%.
Ms Duggan said: "Previously they could turn to social housing, because it was used for a real mix of people to allow them to have a sustainable tenancy if they couldn't afford to buy.
"But now because there's so little available it's only given to people who have a real desperate need."