CREEPING development on Kirklees' greenfield sites could be slowed if thousands of empty homes were reoccupied.
About 5,320 properties around the district lie empty while rural sites are increasingly being considered to meet demand for affordable housing in the face of high home prices.
Government figures set for Kirklees in 2001 showed that about 20,000 new homes were needed before 2016.
But the use of empty buildings would drastically cut that target.
Clr Andrew Cooper, Kirklees Council Cabinet member for housing, spoke to members of the Overview and Scrutiny panel for Regeneration at Huddersfield Town Hall on Tuesday.
He said advice could be given to potential landlords to help them bring their buildings back into use.
In the worst cases, enforcement notices could be served on people whose properties were becoming dilapidated or infested with rats.
About 1,000 of the vacant homes are social housing, while the remaining 4,300 lie in the private sector.
Kirklees Council Housing director Tony Hood said: "That's getting on for a council ward's worth of empty homes - so it's not insignificant."
On average, each ward has about 7,000 homes.
Mr Hood said it was important to put pressure on owners to ensure the buildings were brought back into use. Officers calculate the vacancy figures from properties paying 50% Council Tax.