Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has said the time has come to give renters a break, as the Dáil debates a bill tabled by his party proposing to freeze rents for three years.

Mr Ó Broin said this is an emergency measure and without it renters could be condemned to another decade of soaring rents.

He urged all sides in the Dáil to work together to give renters the Christmas present they deserve.

Fianna Fáil said it will support the bill but will seek to improve it at Committee Stage.

The Government is opposing the bill because it believes this intervention in the market would reduce the supply of new homes, particularly apartments.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said rents are too high, but this bill is the opposite of a solution.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland this morning, Mr Ó Broin said a long-term rent freeze was not an option, but added that an emergency freeze and an affordable tax credit would put a month's rent back in renters' pockets.

He said a significant level of investment in affordable rental accommodation was also needed by Government to increase supply and reduce demand.

Mr Ó Broin said there was an increase in landlords this year and the days of the accidental landlord are over.

He said the vast majority of new investment in the rental market was coming from large investment funds and real estate investment trusts and he said their tax treatment is completely different to the "traditional accidental landlord".

He said in many cases they pay no tax on their rent roll, and pay no capital gains tax.

"So they're already being given huge tax incentives to enter into the market and rents are now at the highest level ever.

"So I don't believe at all that giving renters a break and putting some money back in their pockets will have any impact on new investment".

Mr Ó Broin said the issue of accidental and semi-professional landlords leaving the market needed to be addressed but added, "it is no longer acceptable to say that modest income working people should pay exorbitant prices for very modest homes."

A spokesperson for the Residential Landlords Association of Ireland said the bill would reduce supply as it would drive landlords out of the market.

Speaking on the same programme, Joe Doyle said "tinkering with a free market" affects the confidence of new investors coming into the market.

He said existing landlords are leaving as it's not as attractive an investment as it used to be.

Mr Doyle said the cost base for landlords is "huge" and that a lot of landlords are accidental ones with no pensions and only one or two properties.

He said he accepts that people are faced with rent increases year-on-year but, added: "The reality of the situation is this is an undersupply issue and no matter what way we carve up this turkey, there's just not enough to go around.

"And now rather than rewarding the existing guys in the market with some kind of tax break or some incentive to stay in...the existing guys are getting kicked."

Threshold CEO John Mark McCafferty said rent freezes would have to be balanced by other measures that would ensure the supply of rental properties was enhanced.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr McCafferty said there were a number of issues affecting renters - security of tenure, lack of affordability and a lack of  units - and Sinn Féin's bill was a recognition of the rental hardships faced by some families.

He said what was needed was to see the new powers afforded to the Residential Tenancies Board at work and there should be tax measures to encourage longer term leases, which would provide security of tenure for tenants.

Last month, Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin said it was time to impose a rent freeze because increases had particularly hit young people.

If the party backs the Sinn Féin proposal, the the legislation will have huge majority support in the Dáil.

It will be opposed by the Government, however, which believes that such a freeze would hamper efforts to increase the supply of new homes, particularly apartments.

The Government also says that independent research shows that rent inflation has eased considerably in the designated Rent Pressure Zones which covers an area where 70% of renters are homed.

The legislation also includes a refundable tax credit for up to €1,500 per year for renters.