An Oireachtas Committee heard today that landlords and property owners have been reluctant to make vacant accommodation available to the State's rental accommodation scheme.

The scheme is designed to meet the long-term needs of people unable to meet their own accommodation costs.

The comments were made by Eddie Lewis, Principal Officer with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government as he addressed the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs.

Mr Lewis said that some landlords were unwilling to accept the rental price offered by the Department under the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

The prices offered by the Department are less than the market rent because the Department is removing risk by guaranteeing the landlord a payment.

The Department says vacant housing units would be very helpful in providing long-term accommodation for 35,000 people who have been in receipt of a rent allowance for over 18 months.

However, Mr Lewis told the committee that landlords and property owners are not coming forward, possibly because they were waiting to see what would happen with the National Asset Management Agency.

He said his department had gone to property owners and landlords asking them to rent vacant units in any form, providing standards were met, and he could not understand why he was getting a negative response.