The head of one of the country's biggest homebuilders has said there's an extraordinary mismatch in our cities between the provision of commercial property and what he called 'the poor supply response' on the residential side.

Michael Stanley, CEO of Cairn Homes, told a PwC webinar on the impact of Covid-19 on the real estate sector that the gulf in supply between the residential and commercial sectors could have a detrimental impact on the country's competitiveness.

"Over the last five years we've built, or are building, one million square metres of office accommodation in Dublin. That's enough for 100,000 employees. In that five year period, we built 3,000 apartments which is enough for around 6,000 residents," he said.

"We have to worry about our competitiveness with that mismatch."

Mark Fitzgerald, chairman of estate agents Sherry Fitzgerald, told the webinar that there was a need for a national target for housebuilding.

"The programme for government identified a target of 50,000 social houses and 500,000 retrofits, but there's no overall target for housebuilding over the next five years.

"If we had a target of, say, 140,000 units in the next five years, there's a framework for the public and private sectors to work together to deliver that target," he said.

Michael Stanley also called for more 'lateral thinking' on the Central Bank rules on lending for house purchases.

"They're sensible but they're a pretty blunt instrument and they don't recognise that circumstances can change for borrowers," he said.

"We're in a low interest rate environment, we're unlikely to see house price inflation in the coming years, incomes are unlikely to grow in the short term, banks are more prudent and there's improved buyer affordability," he stated.

Mr Stanley said the rules should be adapted to assess suitability for changed circumstances as well as different demographics and geographies.