The Government needs to look at its role in the limited availability of housing for would-be buyers, according to the chief economist of Goodbody Stockbrokers.

The activities of investment funds in the Irish property market has come under scrutiny this week after it was revealed that large portions of some developments had been acquired by private investors.

The Government has pledged to tackle the issue, though exactly how that will be achieved is as yet unclear.

However speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dermot O’Leary said the Government was having a major role in the acquisition of property too.

"They have been purchasing about 60% of the homes that are being bought by non-households over the last 24 months or so, not the investment funds," he said. "And recently they’re taking up leases of properties, thus taking units away from the private sector.

"So I think a conversation needs to be had about the role the Government is having here, and its inability to build up its own, direct building programme."

Mr O’Leary also said that one of the key limiting factors in the supply of new housing at the moment was a lack of scale among developers.

This, he said, was a legacy issue of the property crash and would not be easy to fix quickly. Part of the issue was the lack of funding coming from Irish banks, which has led to an increased reliance on overseas funds.

The Government had a role to play here too, Mr O’Leary said.

"What the Government can do is remove as many of the blockages as they can in relation to land and the servicing of land," he said.

Yesterday the Central Statistics Office reported a more-than 20% drop in home completions in the first three months of the year, due to the closure of most forms of construction due to Covid-19.

Mr O’Leary said that, in the context of the lockdown, such a drop was quite good – and it meant the country was on track to complete around 21,000 homes this year.

That would put it on par with the 2020 figure – but would remain well behind the numbers required in order to meet current demand.

However Mr O’Leary also warned that Covid-19 would have a longer-term impact on the construction of new homes, as there had been a significant decline in housing starts since the start of the pandemic.

That meant that there would be a subdued flow of homes coming to market even long after the pandemic was over.