A Catholic bishop has said it would be "preferable" that land belonging to church institutions would be sold "in conjunction" with local authorities rather than commercial interests.

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin was speaking at the launch of a pastoral letter by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference.

The letter called for a number of measures, including that housing be made a human right, action on vacant properties and a debate about how to reclaim housing from global markets.

Speaking at the launch, Bishop Doran said some landlords "should examine their consciences as to the extent of profit they make".

He also said he was against state land being sold to commercial interests, as it should belong to the people and should be utilised for the benefit of people.

Asked about the disposals of land by religious orders, the bishop said it would preferable that this was done in conjunction with local authorities.

He said the Catholic church has been undertaking an audit of all properties in its possession for the past two and a half years, to comply with the Charities Act.

However Fr Seán Donohoe of the Capuchin Day Centre said that church property is being donated to homeless charities, such as the the Presentation Sisters premises in George's Hill. Three properties in Sherrard St have also been donated by the Jesuits to the Peter McVerry Trust, and the Mater Dei Institute on Clonliffe Rd had been donated by the archdiocese for use as a family hub.

Meanwhile, a housing conference organised by Simon Ireland heard how Scotland introduced a statutory right for housing in 2012.

Jules Oldham of Homeless Action Scotland said that numbers looking for housing initially showed an expected increase, going up from around 35,000 to 57,000, but then reduced to around 35,000. She said homelessness had been decreasing year on year since then, but has shown a 1% increase this year.

She said the benefit of a statutory right to housing was that "it gives the local authorities the toolset to say yes while before there were so many hoops to go through".

Under the Scottish system, anyone who meets the definition of 'homeless' has to be given a "roof over their head" immediately, even if it is temporary housing.