A new report from the Housing Agency has projected that a minimum of almost 80,000 residential units are required in urban areas to support the population over the next five years.

The latest report from the Government's advisory body on housing says that almost half of these will be needed in the Dublin area.

The report aims to pinpoint urban areas in which housing pressure may arise over the next five years.

Responding to the report, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the need for new homes is a positive challenge for the Government.

She said 80,000 new homes would equal a lot of construction workers going back to work but it would also help many families in search of affordable housing.

She said her department spends almost €400m a year on rent supplements and if some of that money could go towards building new social housing, it would be a double win.

Ms Burton also said there had been very detailed discussions at Cabinet on the subject and the final touches are now being put on a construction plan.

The Housing Agency report forecasts that a minimum of 79,660 houses and apartments are required in urban areas between now and the end of 2018, which is 15,932 units per year.

47% of these, or 37,581, residential units are required in the Dublin region.

In Cork city and its suburbs, the annual housing requirement will rise to 1,469 units by 2018.

Both Galway and Limerick will experience a shortfall in housing requirements in 2015 and require a total of 2,316 and 2,635 units respectively over the subsequent four years.

Waterford will require additional housing only from 2017.

Kilkenny has an immediate supply shortfall, with a yearly requirement of 156 homes between 2014 and 2018.

The report also highlights a striking need for housing in Drogheda town and Dundalk, where 1,284 and 1,088 units respectively are required between now and 2018.

Housing shortages

Meanwhile, the Housing Agency's chief executive has said more houses need to be built in order to attract employment and support the Government's jobs strategy.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, John O'Connor said for every square metre of office space that is provided, three square metres of housing space was needed.

Mr O'Connor said there had been an oversupply of housing a number of years ago, but there were now housing shortages, particularly in Dublin.

He said this was being reflected in increasing rents and house prices.

Mr O’Connor said: "We haven't been building any housing for the last five years, and now we're seeing, particularly in Dublin, shortages of housing and that's reflected in increasing rents and increasing house prices.

"In order to attract employment and to support the Government's strategy in terms of jobs we need to be providing housing."

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Minister of State for Housing Jan O'Sullivan said she believed the report would show banks that there was demand for new developments.

Ms O'Sullivan said the unavailability of finance for those planning to build was the biggest obstacle to new housing.

She said this was one of the most important elements of the issue, but proper planning was equally important.

Ms O'Sullivan said more homes were needed for people but so were sustainable communities.