KANEOHE,HAWAII - When Dorothea Pale and her husband, Isaia, were younger and both working, renting a house in this town near Honolulu was within their financial reach.

They lived happily with their two children in a rented house. But in the last 10 to 15 years, housing prices and rents have shot up throughout the Hawaiian Islands, putting market-rate housing out of reach for many people earning modest incomes.

Dorothea had two knee-replacement surgeries and found it hard to work, making Isaia the only breadwinner. He works as an engineer at a major tourist hotel, and is taking on-the-job training to try to advance further. Their income is now about $30,000 a year, and they depend on the affordable three-bedroom apartment they having been renting for the last eight years at the Kulana Nani Apartments.

The 160-unit property was financed with federal housing subsidies and is now managed by EAH Housing, a nonprofit corporation based in San Rafael, Calif., which develops low-income housing and manages 67 properties in California and Hawaii.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that there was affordable housing, I don’t know where we’d be,” said Pale. Currently, the family pays $672, including utilities, per month for an apartment that allows Chelsea, 12, and Isaia Jr., 10, to each have their own bedroom. At the condominium complex next door, a two-bedroom market-rate unit rents for $2,000 per month.

The subsidized rent is all the family can afford, Pale said. If they had to pay more for housing, she said they would be forced to decide, “Do we eat this week, or should we pay rent? Should we go to the doctor and buy medicine for the kids, or pay the rent?”

Pale has been a tireless volunteer and activist working to make the apartment complex and neighborhood better. She is president of the tenants’ association and helped raise the funding to install a playground and community center at the project.

Pale was recognized for her contributions by the Affordable Housing Management Association of Northern California, Nevada, and Hawaii with its award for “Outstanding Contribution by a Resident.”

“Dorothea exemplifies what every individual should strive to become,” said Mary Murtagh, president and CEO of EAH Housing. “Her deep appreciation of the human condition is a model for all of us. Her commitment to her fellow residents and the homeless shows itself in her passion to empower those who need assistance with their housing needs.”

David Treusch, the property manager for Kulana Nani Apartments, pointed out the many activities and issues Pale works on. “Dory has worked on so many issues important to affordable housing residents. From self-sufficiency programs, community advocacy, to fundraising for playgrounds and other programs, Dory has done it all.”