If there’s at least one good side to the U.S. housing crisis it may be this: homes are more affordable than ever.

That’s according to the latest housing affordability index released Thursday by the National Association of Home Builders and bank Wells Fargo.

The index said 70.1 percent of all new and existing houses sold in the third quarter of 2009 could be afforded by families earning 64,000 a year -- the U.S. median household income. That is down slightly from the 72.3 percent of families who could afford a home the previous quarter, but still near-record levels for the 18 years the index has been in existence, the NAHB said.

"At a time when housing is at its most affordable, we applaud the recent actions taken by Congress and President Obama to stimulate housing by extending the federal tax credit beyond its Nov. 30 deadline and expanding it to a wider group of eligible home buyers," said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. "With interest rates now lower than last quarter, the tax credit will encourage even more home buyers to enter the market and help stabilize housing and the economy by creating new jobs, stimulating home sales, reducing foreclosures, cutting excess inventories and stabilizing home prices."

The Indianapolis area remains the most affordable in the country, with markets in and around Detroit; Youngstown, Ohio; and parts of Pennsylvania close behind.

The least affordable areas included New York City and White Plains, N.Y.; along with Honolulu; San Francisco; and Irvine, Calif.