Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has said there are opportunities across the country to bring vacant homes into public ownership with a focus on providing them to long-term, single homeless people.

Mr O'Brien told RTÉ's News at One that the Government's building programme is behind schedule due to the closures associated with the pandemic and will deliver 80% of its target this year.

Launching a new initiative calling for landlords to make housing available for social housing, the minister said he hopes this would "bridge the gap" in the building target and bring vacant stock into public ownership.

The minister said that there will be a focus on acquiring one bed apartments as 60% of long term homeless people are single.

Minister O'Brien said there is also a need for accommodation for larger families, with 50 families "effectively homeless for four years".

He said local authorities have been contacted and a new website and phoneline are open for property owners who may be interested in the scheme.

He said he has asked the housing bodies and local authorities to re-double efforts to get the 8,000 new social houses finalised this year and offer them to families who need them.

Mr O'Brien has said that he plans to bring more robust legislation on tenants rights into law before 1 August.

He said that an extension of the rent freeze and eviction ban for ten days is an extension of temporary, emergency measures and there will be a seamless transition between this and the introduction of new legislation.

He said that the new legislation is not just for Covid-19 but offers more permanent protection and procedures to help those who fall into rent arrears.

He said it will also protect against evictions in certain circumstances and for rents for those who have lost their jobs or had wages decreased.

Mr O'Brien said that there had been a lot of co-operation from the Attorney General's office in putting the new legislation together.