Social housing applications have risen by 47% over the past five years
Thousands of home buyers are being priced out of the market in Devon, where the average house price is more than 14 times the average earnings.
According to a new report by the National Housing Federation, the county is the second least affordable in the South West. Dorset is the least.
The average cost of a house in Devon is £238,384, while incomes average about £16,806.
Nearly 22,000 families are on the waiting list for social housing.
Within the county, the South Hams is the dearest, with an average house price of £308,000.
At £157,000, Plymouth is the least expensive area, but that is still more than eight times the average salary of £19,230.
The matter will be discussed at a National Housing Federation (NHF) "South West Home Truths" event in London later.
It will be attended by South West MPs, representatives from housing associations, the Tenant Services Authority, Homes and Communities Agency and local authorities.
The NHF report shows that in the past five years there has been a rise of almost 47% in the number of people wanting social housing.
It added that the situation was exacerbated in rural areas, where younger people are being increasingly priced out of the communities in which they grew up.
DEVON'S AVERAGE HOUSE PRICES
South Hams - £308,343
North Devon - £227,844
East Devon - £262,704
West Devon - £233,245
Teignbridge - £244,458
Torridge - £205,942
Mid Devon - £218,365
Exeter - £210,257
Torbay - £190,625
Plymouth - £157,046
The federation is calling for more public investment to support the building of social housing.
It would also like to see public land being made available to affordable housing providers at discounted rates and nationalised banks being compelled to make funds available for shared ownership.
Jenny Allen, the NHF South West regional manager, said high levels of funding had to be sustained to avoid a bigger housing crisis in the future.
"In today's tough economic climate, where first time buyers and low-to-middle income households in the region can only dream of owning a home, the solution has to be to invest in more high quality homes for social rent now before prices begin to escalate again," she said.
Teresa Butchers, from Devon and Cornwall Housing Group, said federation's figures highlighted the scale of the problem.
"Behind the statistics are real families, in real need of homes," she said.
The report's author, Simon Nunn, admitted there would be some "tough choices" ahead, both for local authorities and any future government.
"Property prices may be falling, but that doesn't mean they're becoming more affordable for people in Devon," he told BBC News.
"What we're reminding MPs and local authorities is that in the South West housing is a priority."