Up to 11,000 privately-owned empty homes are to be taken over by Birmingham City Council. The authority will manage unoccupied houses and flats so they can be let out to tenants.
The new power has been introduced as part of the Government's drive to revive housing markets in downtrodden areas and provide more low cost housing.
Properties which have been standing empty for six months or longer will come under council control.
The scheme is the brainchild of John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Figures released by his officials revealed there are 17,836 unused homes in the city - and 11,289 have been empty for six months.
Thousands of properties have also been left to rot in other parts of the region.
In Sandwell, 3,035 homes have been empty for six months. The number of properties in Walsall is 1,854 and in Dudley it is 1,138.
Local authorities will issue Empty Dwelling Management Orders allowing them to take over temporary management of longer term unoccupied houses and flats.
Properties will revert to their owners on an agreed date, or sooner if the owner demands - provided due notice is given and arrangements to repay any reasonable costs incurred by councils are settled.
The new powers are included in the Housing Act 2004 and have already become law, but the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has launched a consultation on how they should operate. The consultation closes on October 14.