Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty have clashed in the Dáil over the Government's €450m plan to encourage the use of existing planning permissions for apartments.

Mr Doherty claimed the Housing Minister was "failing spectacularly" in trying to eliminate the housing crisis, suggested the situation had gone "from bad to worse" and was now rightly being called "a decade of shame" delivering a "social catastrophe".

He described as "bonkers" and a "mad-cap plan" a government initiative to support developers to complete apartment construction in five cities.

The Donegal TD contended it was "off the wall stuff" in which developers were being given a subsidy, but there was no reduction in the price being charged to homeowners.

Mr Doherty claimed this was "straight from the old Fianna Fáil playbook" of the "Galway tent".

He called on the minister to "come to his senses" and scrap the scheme - instead investing the €450m in local authorities-approved housing schemes, which could deliver on affordability.

In reply, Mr O'Brien said that Sinn Féin had "no plan" when it came to housing and simply "opposed everything".

He said the Government had a 'Housing For All’ Plan, which is funded to the tune of €4bn a year, and is "very serious" about increasing supply and delivering affordable homes.

The minister said the proof that the Government's was delivering could be found in the fact that this year would have the highest number of commencements since 2007.

He described the Government's scheme as a "targetted measure" which ensures that people can get to own their apartments.

Mr O'Brien said that the Government "will support people in owning their homes" and was on course to deliver this year "more social homes, in any year, since the foundation of the State".

Mr Doherty said "enough of your spoofing", before saying that house prices are "going through the roof", rents were "spiralling out of control" and homelessness was "nearly back at record levels".

Mr O'Brien said at "every juncture" Sinn Féin tried to "distort" the facts while, at the same time, opposing buy to build and buy to rent.