THE Government has announced a €3.8bn social housing plan aimed at eliminating waiting lists for homes by 2020.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly has revealed that the strategy involves building 35,000 new homes, with another 75,000 units to be rented from the private sector.
The funding will be provided over the next six years - a €1.6bn increase on the amount announced in October's Budget - and 29,000 construction jobs will be created in the building programme.
In addition, a tenant-purchase scheme will be introduced to allow social housing tenants buy their homes.
The move comes as almost 90,000 languish on local authority housing waiting lists, some for up to five years.
People will no longer be forced to remain on one council's waiting list. A 'social housing passport' will be introduced to allow them move from one local authority's waiting list to another.
"I'm unlikely to have a more important day in my time in Government," Mr Kelly said. "The most important thing we can do is give somebody a home.
"It's important we have policies that aren't around electoral cycles. This is a long-term policy."
Some 18,000 homes will be built by the end of 2017. Another 32,000 units will be sourced from the private sector.
Another 17,000 will be constructed by 2020, along with the sourcing of a further 43,000 private units.
Funding for the programme will come from NAMA, public private partnerships and the establishment of a 'Strategic Housing Fund'.
"We are going to clear waiting lists for social housing by 2020, and that is the most critical thing to say," Mr Kelly added.
"We are providing for 110,000 units to meet that need," he said.
He was speaking at the official opening of 20 newly finished apartments in Inchicore to house families and individuals who were on Dublin City Council's housing list, some for as long as seven years.
This latest development forms part of the National Association of Building Co-operatives ongoing housing delivery.
Meanwhile, the new housing strategy unveiled by the Minister has drawn a wide-ranging reaction from the charity sector.
The Simon Communities in Ireland said the strategy has vision and is ambitious - however it does not address the immediate homelessness crisis for people who, it said, are living on the edge from day to day.
"We are deeply concerned that for the people we work with, the people trapped in emergency accommodation and the people who are sleeping on the streets tonight and every night, the Social Housing Strategy does not have a response to meet their needs.
"It is a long-term plan that will take 18 months to two years to begin to deliver. That is just too long to wait for over 2,500 adults in emergency accommodation all around the country, not to mention the almost 800 children in hotel accommodation," said Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities.
She said her organisation has seen a significant rise in the need for their services in recent years, reporting a 24pc increase in its most recent annual report.
"The prolonged economic crisis along with the decline in the availability of affordable housing for vulnerable people and those on low incomes has coincided with rising demand for homeless services," Ms Randall said.
"The current housing shortage is impeding progress and unless addressed urgently will result in the Government failing to achieve their 2016 target.
"We need to address these immediate needs as a matter of urgency, particularly for people who are vulnerable, those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. We are extremely disappointed that homelessness is not prioritised," she added.
Threshold, the national housing charity, also welcomed the social housing strategy announced by the Government, but said immediate measures must be taken to help families facing homelessness.
Bob Jordan, the Chief Executive of Threshold, said his biggest concern about the new social housing strategy was the likely timeline for its implementation.
"There are thousands of families throughout Ireland with a housing need right now," he said.
"In some cases, these families are experiencing, or facing, homelessness. They cannot afford to wait for two or more years, while the Government gets new social housing construction underway. They need assistance right now."
The private rented sector is currently in crisis, with rent levels spiralling out of control.
Government-supported schemes have not kept pace, Mr Jordan said.