The Mirror newspaper has taken the extraordinary step of naming the landlords - some of them letting agencies or private individuals - who allegedly receive the most money from tenants on housing benefit.
The newspaper has set up an interactive element on its website allowing people to type in the location they want to see - then up pops the top 20 landlords, named with the sum they receive from housing benefits. Some 324 local authorities locations are covered by the data.
Some are charities (for example, the Salvation Army is the biggest recipient in some areas) but many are individuals or letting agencies.
“Who really makes money from Housing Benefit? Though the benefit keeps the poor from becoming homeless, the money ends up with the landlord. And some of them make millions from it” reads the website.
“There's no suggestion that the landlords on this list have done anything wrong in providing housing. But given the housing crisis and the dire need to build more houses in the social and private sector it raises the question whether paying private landlords billions a year to host the poor is the best use of government money” says the site.
The Mirror claims the national housing benefit budget is £23.7 billion a year, of which an estimated £9bn is paid to private landlords. The rest goes to local authorities or registered social landlords.
“In many cases landlords receive the money directly - up to £500 if the family is not on other benefits. And it is these landlords we have looked at. Like many other government policies, it rewards property owners. And it rewards some of the richest property owners in the country” says the site.
The Mirror claims that a small but growing number of individuals and companies are doing extremely well from Housing Benefit - these include Tory supporters and MPs, along with members of the Sunday Times Rich List.