Housing charities have said they are on course to exceed Rebuilding Ireland targets despite challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) provided 3,312 new social homes last year which was 42% of national output.

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) said the target for the housing associations under Rebuilding Ireland was 15,000 homes by the end of 2021 and there were already a total of 14,136 at the end of 2020.

In its Activity Report for 2020, the ICSH said that 75% of the homes provided last year were new builds with the rest being acquisitions and long-term leasing.

Dr Donal McManus, chief executive of ICSH, said that although construction of social housing was able to continue during lockdowns, the pandemic caused problems.

"2020 has been a challenging year for everyone involved in housing delivery," he said.

"We are immensely proud of the work of our member organisations' staff who, despite the numerous obstacles that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented, have insured that more keys to lifetime homes were handed over to AHB tenants in 2020 than in 2018."

The ICSH represents more than 270 housing associations with the biggest in the sector being Clúid, Respond and Tuath.

They work with local authorities to cater for people on the housing lists and manage more than 43,000 homes.

This is an increase of nearly 50% from 30,000 in 2016.

Mr McManus said AHBs should be able to deliver at least half of the 50,000 promised under the Government's Housing for All plan.

He also called on the Land Development Agency, which was set up to develop housing on State land, to work with AHBs in providing more social housing and cost rental homes.

Mr McManus said that with the passage of both the Affordable Housing Bill, the Land Development Agency Bill and the Government's forthcoming Housing for All strategy, "there is an opportunity to build a long-term strategy for genuine affordable housing delivery both rental and purchase".

Social homes provided last year include 404 supported units for special needs groups including homeless families, older people and people with disabilities.

A total of 449 homes were provided for people found sleeping on the streets under the Housing First programme.