The Nevin Economic Research Institute has called for the creation of a new commercial semi-State company to become the main supplier of rental housing in the country.

The institute, which is supported by a number of trade unions, said the new company would need to build about 10,000 rental units per year to keep up with demand.

The collapse in building output since 2008 has left a growing population with a housing shortage, forcing house prices and rents upward at an alarming rate.

The Nevin Institute said a radical break with current policy is called for, proposing a new semi-state company that would borrow long-term money at low rates, and use it to build around 10,000 rental units per year, about a third of estimated annual housing need.

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Tenants would be charged rents that would cover finance and construction costs, with low income families assisted by existing public housing benefits.

The model is similar to housing rental companies in mainland Europe, notably Austria and Holland.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, the Economic and Social Research Institute has said the shortage of housing here may start to hold back economic growth, but warned that increasing housing output could cause the economy to start overheating again.

It added this could in turn trigger fiscal rules requiring tax rises and spending cuts to cool things down.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, director of NERI Dr Tom Healy said there is a need for a new departure in the funding and supply of housing, particularly in the rental sector.

Dr Healy said while the Government is investing in the housing problem, the effort is not on a scale sufficent to deal with the problem.

He added that a commercial semi-state company could mobilise money that is there already in agencies such as the National Treasury Management Agency and could pay for itself by charging full rental costs, that would be below market level.

Over a five year period, he said, it should be able to deliver 50,000 units which would be the minimum needed to make an impact.