The Government has survived a motion of no-confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy by three votes, averting a possible Christmas election.

The motion was defeated by just three votes, with the final numbers standing at 56 votes to 53.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the motion as a stunt to gain publicity and coverage. 

Speaking in the Dáil, he referred back to this time two years ago and referenced a debate on confidence in former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

He said a colleague in the house advised him that a general election would not be good for the country and he said it was a Social Democrat who told him that.

The Taoiseach conceded that it was terrible and shameful that more than 10,000 people were in emergency accommodation.

But he added that real and measurable progress was being made in housing and that should not be abandoned.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy introduced the party's bill of no confidence, referring to what she described as the "disgraceful" homelessness figures released this evening.

She said addressing homelessness was the first aim of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland plan, but Fine Gael's great "magic bullet" has not worked.

"They haven't eradicated homelessness, it's worse now," she said.

She said Rebuilding Ireland was also supposed to reduce the numbers on the housing list, but it has not.

Ms Murphy accused the minister of having a "business as usual" approach that has sought to normalise children missing developmental milestones as they are stuck in unsuitable accommodation, and sought to normalise two or three generations under one roof.

Responding to the motion, Minister Murphy said he was concerned the motivation for this debate was not a genuine one.

He said Rebuilding Ireland was constantly being reformed and improved and that could only happen with the support of the Dáil.

Mr Murphy accused the Social Democrats of not appearing at the Joint Oireachtas Committee to question him.

He said he brought forward one of the most progressive rent bills this year, and they did not put down any amendments to that bill.

He accused co-leader Róisín Shortall of speaking against emergency accommodation, social housing and apartment building in her own constituency, saying "the greatest crime in public life is to say one thing and do another and this debate is full of hypocrisies".

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien said tabling a motion of no confidence was the right of the Social Democrats, but that the timing of the motion would be seen by most people as a cynical manoeuvre to try to garner attention ahead of last week's by-election.

He was interrupted at this point by Ms Shortall who said from her seat it was due to her party's private members' time.

Mr O'Brien said people wanted to know what the solution is.

He accused Sinn Féin of not helping and said that they had pulled down the government in Northern Ireland.

He said Sinn Féin did not have a good housing solution in Northern Ireland.

He said: "We have put country first ahead of narrow party political gain and the public will get an opportunity early in the New Year to how we would fix the housing crisis."

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that "almost 4,000 children are suffering circumstances that no child should have to suffer".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for Minister Murphy to go, and said that he was "incapable of dealing with this crisis".

"We can't keep coming in every day to recount the suffering of our people," she said.

Labour's housing spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan told the Dáil that the latest homelessness figures "demonstrates the complete failure of Government policy".

"What we need now is a cap on rents - but that is not something the Government is willing to contemplate," she said.

Ms O'Sullivan added: "You need to admit that the [Rebuilding Ireland] policy has failed and you need to change it."

She said she wanted to "nail the lie" being suggested by Mr Murphy that Opposition parties were not putting forward proposals to solve the housing crisis, raising a copy of the Labour Party's policy called "Affordable Housing For All".