Empty Homes Agency chief executive Jonathan Ellis said the issue has gained huge momentum during the past 12 months, which may be lost if the move is not enshrined in legislation. February's communities plan highlighted the importance of tackling the issue, while new legislation allows authorities to abolish the council tax discount on empty homes.
The government also consulted on new powers for compulsory leasing of private homes, backed by a coalition of homeless charities, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and London mayor Ken Livingstone.
"We urge the government not to lose momentum," added Ellis. "It needs to seek the earliest possible legislative opportunity to make this tool a reality."