Under current policy, landowners can provide sites at below-market prices to build rural housing for local people in need.
But recent legal and financial changes have made this increasingly difficult.
Now a report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England has set out ways to make it easier for landowners to offer their land for affordable housing.
The document, called On Solid Ground, reccommends changes to tax legislation and to councils' waiting list systems for social housing.
Rural communities are particularly hard-hit by dwindling affordable housing stock, with just 8% of rural housing classed as affordable compared to 20% in urban areas.
The high price of rural housing has seen youngsters priced out of the countryside, with services like post offices, pubs and shops closing as workers and potential customers are move elsewhere.
CPRE policy adviser Trinley Walker said: "Landowners understand the pressures facing rural communities, and they are uniquely placed to help keep these towns and villages thriving.
There is a clear appetite among landowners to help create affordable housing for local people, but the current system discourages them from doing so.
"Government must do more to address the lack of affordable housing in rural areas.
"Removing some of the obstacles preventing landowners from providing land is a straightforward way to get more houses built for those who need them."
The paper proposes giving landowners power to ensure that their land will benefit people with local connections.
Landowners would be more inclined to provide land for affordable housing if they had more confidence that this would directly benefit those in their local community.
The paper suggests changes to letting systems, many of which currently don't allow for prioritising local tenants.
It also suggests measures that would see landowners paying reduced tax on profits from providing affordable housing, and being able to offset losses from these investments against other income.
The report has been supported by the Country Land and Business Association, whose members provide nearly 40% of all private rented housing in rural areas.
CLA president Ross Murray said rural landowners had strong ties to local communities and were well-placed to help increase the supply of affordable homes.
"We want life in our villages – to support young families, local workers and those in the community who are ready to downsize.
"At a time when housing costs are spiralling, providing more affordable housing is an excellent way to sustain rural communities for future generations.