Lunchtime news March 26

Listen again to the end of this morning’s Today programme for a row between housing minsiter Yvette Cooper and her Conservative shadow Michael Gove over who are the biggest nimbies. Cooper’s boss Ruth Kelly or Tory councillors in the South East?

The interview was prompted by a story in The Times about new DCLG figures showing the number of owner-occupiers fell in 2013 for the first time in 50 years. Go here for the figures.

Construction firms Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow have agreed to merger that will create Britain’s biggest housebuilder.

Oxford economics professor John Muellbauer criticises the ‘fig leaf’ council tax reforms proposed in the Lyons review in the Financial Times. He also calls for radical action on planning, including a land-buying agency which would gradually buy up tracts of farm land for housing.

The government has abandoned plans for an extra levy on second homes, according to The Times.

Britain’s biggest sub-prime lender is selling chunks of loans to keep going, reported the Telegraph at the weekend, but there won’t be a US-style disaster in the sector.

Which is just as well if you read Larry Elliott‘s column in today’s Guardian: he compares the US sub-prime crisis to the Enron scandal.

But not if you read the story in The Observer about lenders targetting council tenants with unaffordable loans.

The Observer reports that the public accounts committee will heavily criticise the government’s home ownership programmes in a report this week.

Former Conservative housing minister John Patten is pressing for the closure of soup kitchens for homeless people near his London flat, reports the Independent on Sunday.