Think-tank Policy Exchange believes housing associations could raise £30bn to build more homes if they were run as mutuals.
A report by the group insisted the move could unlock funds to enable them to build an extra 100,000 affordable homes in Britain, while still paying a dividend to investors.
The organisation also recommended that housing associations should avoid relying on raising money through debt and Government grants, and instead offer shares to various groups, including institutional investors, small shareholders and tenants.
Policy Exchange revealed housing associations, who currently own or manage 2.4 million properties in England, are sitting on assets worth at least 90 billion and have an annual turnover of more than £11bn.
The group predicted the goal of building an extra 100,000 homes a year could be achieved by 2016, while the move would save the Government approximately £5bn each year.
City lawyer and property expert Natalie Elphicke, who wrote the report, believes housing associations are not fulfilling their potential.
She said: “Housing associations are sitting on a goldmine of under-used assets.
“By selling shares in their organisations, they can unlock a vast new flow of cash to bring affordable housing within the reach of more than a million people languishing without hope on housing waiting lists.
“Given that Government is under severe fiscal pressure, and will surely examine the future of grant funding, equitisation may allow better value for the taxpayer, and allow affordable housebuilding to continue even if its grant is reduced.”
Elphicke believes housing associations should be run like mutuals such as the Co-op or John Lewis Partnership.
She also insisted that no change in the law would be needed, as current legislation allows housing associations to be run as profit-making companies, while tenants are also protected by law.