More people can afford to buy a home now, although the median island income still does not come close to justifying a family in trying to buy a median island house.
But things are much, much better, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. The Housing Affordability Index is rising steadily.
The index shows what percentage of the median price of housing a median income will support. An index of 100 means a median family can afford a median house.
That has never been the case in Hawaii - which is why island homeownership rates are lower than other states' - and it isn't the case now, despite falling asking prices. But the gap has narrowed dramatically.
Maui County had the most unaffordable housing in the state - if not the whole country - in 2006, when the UHERO index fell to 46.4. Last year, it was up to 65.6. The index is likely to improve more next year, although in its latest construction report, the amount is not estimated.
However, the Honolulu index, now 64.4, is expected to rise to as much as 76.
Maui County real estate prices are falling more than Oahu prices, so the advance in the index here could be even greater.
On the other hand, personal income is falling more here than on Oahu because Oahu's more diversified economy has been better insulated from turmoil than Maui's tourism-based economy. (On the other hand, Oahu's heavy concentration of state jobs means its personal income figure will take a hit when the decision - furloughs or layoffs - on balancing the state budget finally hits the civil servants.)
And it depends what type of housing is sought. In July, single-family prices were rising while condo prices were falling. According to the Realtors Association of Maui, the medians were $532,000 and $350,000, respectively.
However, the condo declines were skewed somewhat toward vacation and time-share units. In Kihei, home to the most condos, the median was down to $257,000.
The median county income for a family of four was $63,550 in 2007, the latest figure reported in the Maui County Data Book. It is probably lower by at least a few thousand dollars by now.
As a rough guide, if a family pays a third of its gross income for housing, then a median Maui family could just about hope to manage a median Kihei condo now.
At the median, half the values are higher, half lower.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.