Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said overly relying on rental support payments is not a long-term solution to address housing shortages.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions, he told the Dáil that there has been an over-reliance on the Housing Assistance Payment in recent years.

HAP is an emergency response while the State builds up a housing stock, the minister said.

He told the house that this year there would be more than 12,000 new social homes delivered.

The Minister insisted the emergency payments are necessary while the "dramatic" increase in the building of social housing is getting under way.

However, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the over-reliance on these payments did not stem from an emergency but from failed Government policy.

He also called for an increase in the income thresholds for those eligible to receive these emergency payments.

€1.5bn on housing help since 2017

More than €1.5bn has been spent on the Housing Assistance Payment scheme since 2017, with over €260m spent on the scheme in the first half of this year.

The figures were released to Sinn Féin by the Department of Housing.

They show that 62,290 households are dependent on some form of housing assistance payment and almost 15% of those are availing of Homeless Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

This is an enhanced version of the ordinary HAP scheme and only available to homeless households in Dublin.

Altogether, 11,715 Homeless HAP tenancies were set up to date. 9,118 of these are still active.

The cost of setting up Homeless HAP payments by the end of quarter two in 2021 came to €12.5m.

These initial costs comprise "rent in advance, deposits and associated costs", according to the Department of Housing.

Sinn Féin's Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has described the figures as "deeply concerning" and said they show a continued over-reliance on the private sector to provide social housing.

In its Housing for All strategy, the Government has committed to reducing dependency on HAP and the Rental Accommodation Scheme as it increases the levels of housing stock managed by local authorities and associated housing bodies.

Until that time, however, it has committed to supporting the over 62,000 households which are dependent on the HAP scheme and those relying on RAS.

Last week, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien told reporters that the Government is spending approximately €700m per year on rental supports.