Editorial: Merkley has ambitious plan for affordable housing

By the numbers, the country’s affordable housing problem is big:

• More than half a million people can be experiencing homelessness.

• Seven million more affordable homes are needed to fill the gap.

• And the ratio between single-family home prices and median household income has climbed steadily — it was 2.8 in 1973, 3.3 in 2001 and 4.2 in 2017.

Those are the numbers that Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, used to highlight the need for his legislation, the Housing Opportunities Made Equitable Act, the HOME Act.

It would invest some $560 billion over 10 years to attempt to ensure every American has access to a home they can afford. It attempts to help those who have been most impacted by discriminatory policies. They would be the first to benefit from such things as down payment assistance, matched savings accounts and emergency rental assistance vouchers.

It’s a massive investment. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t done an official cost estimate.

The country is running out of affordable places to live. It’s the root of many problems. That challenge will never be met without energy and pressure, without voices like Merkley’s, insisting more should be done. This bill doesn’t need to be the one that passes. There may be better approaches. If not this, what will Congress and President Joe Biden do?