Empty office blocks could be converted to flats without planning permission under Government proposals to increase the supply of housing.
Planning minister Nick Boles will unveil detailed proposals this week allowing developers to bypass expensive and time-consuming procedures.
More than one in five offices is presently unoccupied in some regions while there is a shortage of new homes, the Financial Times said.
New "permitted development rights" will exclude shops and warehouses.
The FT reported that the City of London will be promised an exemption after warning it would be hard to reverse the changes when the financial sector revives.
Cities of Westminster and London MP Mark Field told the newspaper: "We've just had a once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis so it's hard to judge what the demand will be for office space in the coming years. I've made representations on behalf of the Square Mile for an exemption so I am delighted by this sensible move."