AUGUSTA – As a leading advocate for affordable housing in Maine, I find much to agree with in columnist Greg Kesich’s recent commentary on housing (“After housing crisis, a house is once again just a place to live,” Sept. 8)

For me, it makes more sense for the federal government to target government subsidies to people who have no roof over their heads than it does to subsidize $1 million dream homes for the wealthiest Americans.

There are about 7,000 people who are homeless in Maine each year, and many thousands of others who struggle to make their monthly rent.

Families in need of rental assistance may be on waiting lists that are months or even years long.

In some cases in Maine, waiting lists are so long they are closed.

That being said, I think Kesich goes too far in his criticism of home ownership.

It remains a worthy goal for many families, and with mortgage interest rates at historic lows it is a great opportunity for families to act.

“(F)or people with a more realistic version of the American dream, buying a house now can make a lot of sense.” That’s a quote from Dr. Karl Case, professor emeritus of economics at Wellesley and a co-creator of the Case-Shiller housing index (a widely used barometer for national home values), taken from a recent column in The New York Times.

Case, who will speak at our Annual Affordable Housing Conference Oct. 25 at Portland’s Holiday Inn by the Bay, says the dream of owning a home that appreciates 30 percent a year and is used as a vehicle for paying bills may be dead.

But the dream remains alive and well for families seeking “a solid and fairly safe long-term investment that is coupled with the satisfaction of owning the house they live in.”

I would second Dr. Case, and add that for first-time buyers of a home today, it makes a whole lot of sense — and cents.

Consider the facts. Homes are less expensive today — home values in Maine have fallen more than 9 percent from their peak, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency data.

There is a plentiful supply of housing for sale.

And interest rates for home mortgages are the lowest they have been for decades.

At MaineHousing we recently lowered the interest rates on our mortgages for first-time homebuyers, which includes people who have not owned a home in the past three years and active-duty or veteran military personnel, regardless of whether they have owned a home in the past three years.

Our most popular product, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with zero points, has an interest rate of only 4.375 percent (4.970 annual percentage rate).

It includes the Gift of Green option, which provides $2,500 to help with down payment and closing expenses and a $500 coupon for a two-part energy audit. Those paying two points, with no Gift of Green, are eligible for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.875 percent (4.617 APR).

In addition, our mortgages come with payment protection for unemployment if borrowers lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

We will make four mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance, at no extra cost to the borrower. The borrower repays these at the end of the mortgage with no penalty or interest.

Owning a home remains an excellent investment for most families.

The mortgage usually is paid by the time retirement comes around, providing the owners with very affordable housing or an investment with considerable value.

A home remains the most important asset for most middle-income households. Residential real estate amounts to 32 percent of the average household’s net worth. This is far more than individual stocks, which account for 13 percent of net worth.

There also are intangible benefits to owning a home.

If you talk with homeowners, often what they say they like best is the sense of ownership and freedom. They can paint a room purple, set up a swing set for the kids in the backyard, or plant their own garden.

You cannot measure that feeling in dollars and cents.