The drying up of land sales and the collapse in rates of building have created a new monster that stalks the house building sector: zombie land banks.
A complex array of factors has led house builders and other landowners to sit on plots of land that they do not wish to sell and yet cannot afford to develop while house prices are at current depressed levels.
In spite of recent signs of life returning to the housing market, the dead weight of this volume of land raises questions about how quickly the sector can return to profit.
The secretive nature of land sales means that there are few reliable statistics for the level of activity in the market. But most observers agree conditions are unusually subdued.