Trade unions have criticised the Government's latest initiatives on housing as consisting of no more than gestures.

It comes after Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy announced three initiatives to address the housing crisis.

They include a Government-backed mortgage scheme - the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme - for first-time buyers struggling to obtain finance.

An Affordable Purchase Scheme and Affordable Rental Scheme were also announced.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has joined calls for the Government to take control of home building.

It is launching a campaign to establish a Charter for Housing Rights that would include a legal right to housing.

ICTU General Secretary Patricia King said: "What we are witnessing is systemic policy failure of the highest order. The key problem is a severe lack of supply of public housing and the fact that the State has abandoned housing policy to developers".

Ms King was speaking ahead of a conference that will launch the campaign to establish a change of policy.

The lobbying campaign aims to secure the declaration of a housing emergency, a legal right to housing, preventing evictions into homelessness and a national land use policy.

Ms King said: "It is clear to us and to many agencies operating on the front line that we are in the midst of a very real emergency, with respect to housing and homelessness.

"Lives are being damaged and destroyed and a whole generation of younger workers now wonders whether they will ever be in position to find suitable, secure and affordable accommodation," she added.

The Chairperson of housing subcommittee of the City and County Managers' Association has said house building is "ramping up continually".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Michael Walsh said while local authorities do not have specific building targets for this year, they have overall targets for the next four years until 2021.

Mr Walsh, who is also CEO of Waterford City and County Council, said in a couple of years time he expects that between 4,000 and 5,000 housing units to be delivered each year.

He said in 2017 the local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies delivered 2,400 new units. He said it expects to increase that figure by 50% this year and increasing it again by 50% the following year.

Mr Walsh said for ten years there was no housing construction and now they are "ramping up very significantly" and expects to get back to where they were a number of years ago and will build up to 6,000 houses a year.

He added that he accepted Minister Murphy's comments that some local authorities were doing better than others in relation to house building, which he said were affected by land availablility, procurement and process issues.

Mr Walsh acknowledged his own local authority had no house completions in the first three quarters of last year but added that Waterford City and County will deliver on its targets in the coming years.

He also said the intention is to deliver over 100 housing units this year and continue to build 100 houses a year after that.