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BBC: "Why is the UK's housing benefit bill so high?"

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"The UK currently spends billions of pounds a year on housing benefit. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, explains the history of the payments and how government funding for house-building has gradually moved into subsidies for rents, especially to private landlords.
What is housing benefit?
"It's a means-tested benefit paid to people on low incomes. For tenants in council or housing association properties it will usually cover their whole rent if they have no other income. For many of those in the private sector it will not pay the whole rent even if they have no other income. Housing benefit is withdrawn as income rises, but an increasing number of people in work claim at least some housing benefit.
Why do we have it?
"We don't have benefits explicitly to pay for any other item of spending - a clothes benefit, or a food benefit for example. But the level of rents is so variable around the country and between households that a special benefit to help pay rents has been in place since at least the 1930s. A form of housing benefit was part of Beveridge's prescription in his famous report. He referred to 'the problem of rent'."

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