The Government is examining a scheme to buy social housing with a combination of State funds and private investment to keep the cost off the State's books.  

The scheme would be similar to a system used by the National Asset Management Agency, which provides some accommodation for those on the housing list while keeping the cost of the homes off the national debt. 

At the launch of the NAMA Annual Report for 2015, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the Housing Minister Simon Coveney was considering using the NAMA system as a template for buying accommodation.

The housing would be bought by a State-backed fund, which would also use finance from private investors. 

The fund would then lease the properties to voluntary housing agencies. 

Mr Noonan said that Ireland "was short of capital for investment" and added the benefit of the NAMA scheme was that it kept the cost of housing "off the balance sheet". 

The agency also said today that it increased its post-tax profit by 300% to €1.8 billion last year.

NAMA generated €9.1 billion in cash during 2015, with €8.5 billion coming from asset disposals.

It said this allowed the agency to redeem senior debt of €5.5 billion during the year.

This, together with further debt redemptions earlier this year, means NAMA has redeemed Senior Debt totalling €24.6 billion.

Overall, NAMA’s outstanding senior debt has fallen to just under one fifth of its peak level - dropping from €30.2 billion to €5.6 billion.

The agency has made a profit each year since 2011.

Commenting today, NAMA's chief executive Brendan McDonagh said: "We continue to make excellent progress in achieving what the Oireachtas asked us to achieve - eliminating a €30.2 billion contingent liability for the taxpayer and maximising the financial return from our assets.

"We are also on course to deliver a significant surplus for the taxpayer over NAMA’s lifetime, in addition to fulfilling our more recent mandates of delivering 20,000 new homes where they are most needed and world-class offices and commercial space in the Dublin Docklands," he added.