Housing Benefit is a social benefit
available to people in the UK
. It is a payment provided by the Local Authority
(i.e. the council) to pay the rent or mortgage of those with low (or no) income. Much of the money for this effectively comes from central government, but housing is considered to be primarily a local issue - particularly as the cost of housing varies considerably over the country. This allows Unemployment Benefit to avoid the issue and pay the same rate throughout the country.
In addition, Council Housing is one of the primary sources of housing assistance in the UK. This means that many recipients of housing benefit are themselves council tenants. Many private landlords will refuse HB tenants. Some of this is, no doubt, a dislike of taking in people they see as poor but another significant element is the amount of paper shuffling involved in obtaining housing benefit. It often takes as much as three months to get it sorted out, which leaves a pretty large opportunity for the tenant to find themselves in arrears.