Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has defended the spending of €400m on the Housing Assistance Payment, saying it is needed to keep people out of emergency accommodation "or worse".

He was speaking as latest Government figures show new builds for social housing came in slightly under target last year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Murphy said that out of every home built in Ireland last year, one in four is for social housing.

He said supply is moving in the right direction and while more needs to be done there has been progress.

In all, there were a total of 27,103 social housing units provided across all categories in 2018 as part of the Rebuilding Ireland programme - 106% of its target.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Just over two thirds (69%) are still supported tenancies in the private rental sector through Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) and the Rental Assistance Scheme (RAS).

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said overall the provision of homes to those on waiting lists was ahead of target.

There were 4,251 new social housing builds in 2018 with 2,022 built by local authorities, 1,388 by Approved Housing Bodies and 841 homes provided through the Part V requirement on new developments.

This was 4% below target, but the department said the rate of construction last year was 85% higher compared to 2017.

There were big increases in the number of homes provided through long-term leasing (up 21%) and acquisitions (up 17%).

The report stated: "In some parts of the country, acquiring homes is both quicker and delivers better value for money."

Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the Government's social housing plans are not sustainable and an over-reliance on the private rental sector in place of building more social housing is wrong.

Speaking on the same programme, he said €750m is being spent on the HAP scheme with 75% of social housing tenancies being met through private rentals, which he said is very expensive and pushing up the price of rentals for everyone.

Mr Ó Broin said that subsidising private rental tenancies should be a short-term measure, but it is being used to meet long-term housing needs.

Additional Reporting John Kilraine