Nearly 3,500 council housing units are vacant for a month or more across Ireland.

Housing charities have called on the Government to address the problem of boarded up and vacant social housing units.

The figures obtained by RTÉ's Morning Ireland were of city and council vacancy rates from across the country.

Many of these county councils cited lack of funding and the need for major refurbishment as the reasons for the housing units being vacant.

On a percentage basis, the worst affected areas are Limerick and Cavan where over 8% of council homes have been vacant for one or more months.

In Mayo and Sligo the figure is just over 7%, in Longford it is nearly 5% while in Cork it is over 4%.

Over 600 empty council housing units are vacant in Dublin, which is just 1.5% of the housing stock, half of which have been empty for three months or more. 

Homeless charity Focus Ireland has described the amount of vacant and boarded up council houses across the country as a "scandal".

Meanwhile, figures from the Department of Social Protection show that the Government spent €422 million last year on rent supplements for private rented accommodation.  

Govt applying for €100m EU structural funding

Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing and Planning Jan O'Sullivan has said the issue of long-term vacant houses is being addressed as a matter of urgency.

Ms O'Sullivan said some of the houses need significant work before they can be given to anyone.

€15m has been allocated in the Budget to improve social housing and she said she is keen that work on those houses is completed as soon as possible.

She said a construction programme has also begun.

The Government is applying for an EU structural fund worth around €100m.

Ms O'Sullivan said she was working to solve the problem of empty houses.

She said: "We will develop a construction programme over the years. We're starting it this year but while we ramp that up, and it takes about two years to develop a housing estate, we cannot have people simply waiting for housing so we have to use what's available in the private sector in the meantime.

"As we gradually build up the public construction programme, then I certainly expect that will certainly take over some of the demand that's there."

Simon Brooke of Clúid Housing Association, one of the country’s largest housing associations, said some of the social housing stock is in need of serious repairs, but local authorities do not have the money to carry out the work.

He said: "One of the reasons why they are long-term empty is that they have serious repairs problems.

"Local authorities have simply run out of money, so many local authorities are well aware of the problems they have but they don't have money to carry out the repairs."

Mr Brooke estimated that if households that were currently getting rent supplement to rent in the private sector could be housed in those vacant properties, it would save in the region of €20 million a year.