Voters in three Vineyard towns yesterday brought the Island a step closer to the creation of a housing bank by backing the initiative and enacting the Community Preservation Act.

Approval of the CPA in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury provided a crucial step on the road to establishment of a housing bank, which would be modeled on the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank.

"We're all very happy," Abbe Burt, campaign manager for the Martha's Vineyard Community Housing Bank Coalition, said last night. "I'm just proud to be an Islander. I'm proud that the voters recognized that this issue needed to be addressed, and were willing to get out there and vote for it."

Edgartown passed the CPA by a vote of 385-350, with 38 blanks, and backed the non-binding resolution supporting creation of a housing bank with a vote of 386-360, with 27 blanks.

Oak Bluffs approved the CPA by 581-493, with 109 blanks, and supported the housing bank with a vote of 606-484, with 93 blanks.

West Tisbury passed the CPA on a vote of 345-302, with 13 blanks, and supported the housing bank 357-293, with 10 blanks.

State legislators have told housing advocates that the legislature would not consider a housing bank for the Vineyard until all the Island's towns availed themselves of the CPA, which uses a property surtax to help fund affordable housing, open space and historic preservation.

Two other Vineyard towns -- Aquinnah and Chilmark -- previously enacted the CPA.

Yesterday's successful votes leaves just one town -- Tisbury -- still to decide whether to put the CPA into effect. The preservation act comes before Tisbury voters at Tuesday's election.

If Tisbury passes the CPA, and Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah support the housing bank, public meetings will be held over the next several months to gather input on legislation to create the housing bank.

The housing bank fund would receive revenue from a one per cent tax on the value of real estate transfers above $750,000. Unlike the land bank where the buyers pays the two per cent fee, the seller would pay the tax for the land bank.

As for the CPA, towns that adopt the act place a surtax of up to three per cent on existing property taxes. State matching funds are available only to those towns that vote the full three per cent surtax.

The act provides exemptions for the first $100,000 of property value. People who would qualify under state law for low-income housing, or low or moderate-income housing, would be exempt from the surtax.

A community preservation committee in each town would decide how the money will be divided among the categories of affordable housing, historic preservation and open space. The committee must spend at least 10 per cent of the funds on each category.