A shake-up in the planning system published on Wednesday will create better quality and more affordable family homes, a minister has said.
Councils will be asked to offer more 'brownfield' sites
Housing minister Yvette Cooper said the new guidelines would reduce planning hold-ups and speed up development.
They will also force councils to build more houses, rather than flats, and make areas family-friendly, she said.
But the Tories said the plans did nothing to stop councils overdeveloping neighbourhoods and "grabbing" gardens.
The planning policy statement known as PPS3 requires local authorities to identify more sites for housing, plan 15 years ahead, emphasise the need for better quality design and stronger environmental standards.
Councils will need to ensure there are enough family homes in their areas and, for the first time, ensure the housing needs of children are being met.
New developments will also have to take account of the need to cut carbon emissions and to move towards zero carbon building projects.
Ms Cooper said the guidelines would let councils earmark new sites more quickly and avoid unnecessary planning delays.
The new rules would mean more family homes would be built, with access to gardens, play areas and parks, she added.
"In London, for example, four out of five new homes are one and two bedroom flats.
"Whilst we need more new homes for first time buyers and single households, we need to insist on more family homes," she said.
The new National Brownfield Strategy, also published on Wednesday, is aimed at getting councils to offer up more previously-developed land for new homes.
The rules were welcomed by the Northern Way - a group of northern development agencies - as "an end to the numbers game in planning" with an emphasis on good quality homes.
But the Conservatives have criticised the government for including gardens in the definition of "brownfield land".
They also called on the government to scrap rules brought in by former environment secretary John Prescott forcing all new developments to have at least 12 dwellings per acre (30 per hectare).
And shadow housing minister Michael Gove said national planning rules were "creating a surplus of pokey flats and a shortage of family homes with gardens".
For the Lib Dems, Dan Rogerson MP said the government had recognised the problem but was "devoid of ideas" to solve it.
"Allowing councils to retain some family-sized homes instead of them becoming flats, or in some instances, allowing flat conversions to be restored to family-sized homes, would help the shortage of suitable houses for young families struggling to get on the property ladder," he said.