The new initiative, which is part of the Department for Social Development's Facing the Future - Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland, published earlier this year, aims to use housing intervention as one of the main catalysts for local regeneration.
The DSD said that work in the areas would involve "concerted social, economic and physical interventions" by its Housing and Urban Regeneration Directorates with support from the Social Security Agency, the Housing Executive, Housing Associations, local communities and key statutory and voluntary agencies "to develop solutions that will reverse decline and create more sustainable communities".
McCausland said: "In the past there was a tendency to simply bulldoze the empty properties, clear the site and walk away. But a bulldozer and some grass seed is simply not good enough. It leaves communities with the heart torn out of them. We need a more radical approach that will deliver results.
"I want to see a more radical and strategic approach. An approach that truly engages with local people so what have become forgotten communities, can once again become thriving and successful. This has been done elsewhere and this pilot programme will allow us to try out a range of initiatives to see what works best and what could work in other places too."
McCausland said "Regeneration Forums" would now be set up in each of the areas "to take work forward and develop plans with tailor-made economic, physical and social interventions to meet community needs".
DSD said membership of the forums would be sought from the Housing Executive, elected representatives, council officials, housing associations and representatives from education, health and the voluntary and community sectors.