Airbnb properties currently being used for homeless services must not go back into the private market according to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

The minister has said that Airbnb and other short-term letting agencies will have to be regulated directly to ensure this does not happen.

Mr Murphy was today visiting an aparthotel facility in the South City with 110 units that is being used to house cases or suspected cases of Covid-19 among the homeless community.

Dublin City Council recently announced that it and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive had secured 400 rooms in eight hotels and 165 self-contained apartments for use by the homeless services.

Mr Murphy said "what is abundantly clear in this crisis is the amount of short-term lettings that are now available for homeless services, the HSE and others and that we need to take the next step and regulate these online platforms, the next government has to have this as a priority". 

The Government introduced planning controls which required owner occupiers on short-term letting properties to register and those letting out second properties were told they would require planning permission that would be unlikely to be granted in a rent pressure zone.

However, only 239 hosts came forward even though the online monitoring company Inside Airbnb estimates there are more than 7,200 short-term letting properties in the capital.

Minister Murphy believes that up to 2,000 are second properties that could be retained for the private and social rental market.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council is hoping to move 100 families out of hotel accommodation - mainly into aparthotel units - over the next three weeks.

Assistant Chief Executive Brendan Kenny said the council has also managed to negotiate cheaper rates with accommodation providers and now has eight hotels either mainly or entirely being used for the homeless.

The city council is also hoping to secure 25-year leases or even buy some apartments that are currently empty in the collapse of the tourism market.

However, some homeless charities deny claims that there is now spare capacity of emergency beds, with Louisa Santoro of the Mendicity Institution saying they are still dealing with 30 or 40 people who are sleeping rough a day.