There are 5,941 families currently in the queue for a council property.
The figure far outweighs the number of available homes and Sandwell Council recommends people consider private rented properties as an alternative.
The authority is looking to work with the owners of at least 200 empty, or abandoned privately-owned properties to bring them back into use by March to meet the need for more affordable housing.
It comes as the council considers whether to offer houses to Syrian refugees.
Around 20 people could come to the borough and be housed in private rented homes, if the authority agrees.
Council leader Councillor Darren Cooper said: “Bringing these homes up to scratch will help us to cut the waiting time for homes in the borough.
“It will also help to improve the environment of areas and bring in more people. This will also boost business in Sandwell.”
Councillor Cooper said it was not yet known if Syrian refugees would be housed in the borough.
“If they are offered places in Sandwell it is possible these houses could be used,” he said.
“However, the immediate aim of this scheme is to meet the current housing need.”
Private-owned properties may be left empty for a number of reasons, such as the high cost of repairs, the inability to achieve a sale, stalled redevelopment, or they have simply been abandoned.
The council takes action when a property has been empty for more than six months.
This may include making an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO), which enables the authority to ‘effectively step into the shoes of the owner’ to carry out repairs.
Where an owner fails to repay the cost of works carried out, the council will consider forcing a sale of the property to recover the debt.
As a last resort, the authority will consider the compulsory purchase of a property where a house is unlikely to be brought back into use by the owner, particularly where it is in a poor state of repair.
Since 2013 more than 400 privately-owned properties have been brought up to standard in the borough.
12 Sep 2015 www.expressandstar.com