Calling it a test of town priorities, the executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund this week asked the Oak Bluffs Community Preservation Committee to commit another $400,000 to the financially troubled Bradley Square project, in the name of historic preservation.

“What is critical right now is for the Island Affordable Housing Fund to get a mandate for your priorities for this project. When we attempt fund-raising for this project we want to make sure our final design is consistent with the voice of the people, and it starts with this decision by this committee,” Mr. Hopkins said at a Monday night meeting of the committee.

Last year Oak Bluffs voters agreed to commit $400,000 in Community Preservation Act money to Bradley Square, a $5.3 million project that calls for renovating the old Denniston house on Masonic avenue and adding two new buildings for affordable housing and commercial space for artists. The ambitious project hit the skids with the falling economy and the abrupt departure of fund executive director Patrick Manning late this summer.

But Mr. Hopkins, who took the helm at the fund six weeks ago and is charged with straightening out a financial mess at the fund that includes empty coffers for the county rental assistance program, was not the only person to request CPA money on Monday night in the name of affordable housing.

David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, was there to ask for $132,000 to cover the town’s portion of the county rental assistance program, which the housing fund can no longer cover.

And so was selectman Ronald DiOrio, also chairman of the town affordable housing committee, who is asking for $400,000 to set up a new town affordable housing trust, modeled after a similar fund set up in Edgartown last year.

And all this in a year when the Community Preservation Committee has been told by town finance director Paul Manzi to limit its total grants to about $428,000, based on the fact that the state reduced its matching levels from 87 per cent last year to 48 per cent this year.

“We cannot predict what the state will reimburse in the future, so it would be better to wait until a special town meeting next year to allocate additional state funds,” wrote Mr. Manzi in a memorandum to committee chairman Stephen Durkee last month.

The committee currently has about $659,000 in reserve funds, nearly all of it earmarked for other projects. And in addition to the three affordable housing requests totaling just over $912,000 the committee is considering another $600,000 in requests from other community groups.

On Monday Mr. Hopkins suggested that the $400,000 in CPA funding may be the last resort to preserve the house on Masonic avenue which was the home of the late Oscar Denniston and the rectory for the Bradley Church, one of the earliest African American churches on the Vineyard.

If the fund does not receive the money, Mr. Hopkins said he would strongly consider eliminating the historic preservation component of the Bradley Square project.

The meeting was only to hear proposals; the committee will begin deliberations toward its recommendations next week. Any recommendations must be approved by voters at the annual town meeting in April.

Although the various Island affordable housing groups have traditionally prided themselves on unity, tension was evident on Monday.

During his presentation, Mr. Vigneault said the housing authority actually needs $150,000 from Oak Bluffs to fully fund the town’s share of the rental assistance program, but recognizing that funds are tight, he said he decided to ask for a smaller amount. “We understand the confluence of reduced state matches and heightened demand is putting a strain on this committee,” he said.

And he said the housing authority is no longer counting on support from the housing fund.

“We are not waiting to see what happens — we’re just asking for full participation [from the towns],” Mr. Vigneault said.

Mr. DiOrio made a strong pitch for money to put in a trust fund that he called a self-sustaining solution to affordable housing. He said the trust would allow the town to buy and develop property and generate revenue from rentals or sales.

“The rental [assistance] addressed a need, but it’s not a solution moving forward . . . this effort will chip away at the solution while also generating a positive cash flow for the town,” Mr. DiOrio said.

Mr. Durkee questioned the concept. “My concern is we’re sort of taking the taxpayers voice out of the allocation of the pool of funds . . . wouldn’t you say the CPA was created to engage the community and taxpayers and allow them to have a say in how the money is spent?” he said.

Mr. DiOrio said a board of trustees for the trust would hold public meetings, and he said selectmen would also serve as members.

The trust must be approved by Oak Bluffs voters in order to become reality.

But the toughest questions of the night centered on the Bradley Square request.

Mr. Hopkins began with a brief summary of the fund-raising efforts for Bradley Square. Only about $700,000 of the $5.3 million needed for the project has been raised so far, he said, and that includes $400,000 approved by voters last year.

“So is it reasonable to assume the gap between what you have, and what you need is between $5.3 million and $700,000?” committee member Charles Rock asked.

“That’s reasonable,” Mr. Hopkins answered.

“Well that’s a pretty big gap,” Mr. Rock replied.

Mr. Hopkins said the fund plans to launch an aggressive fund-raising campaign for Bradley Square in the coming months, but he said the Community Preservation Committee’s decision will play a big role in whether the preservation of the historic home stays in the plans.

“If the town of Oak Bluffs came back and said the priority is not to do the historical component of this project, then we would not go in that direction . . . if you were to fund this request I think it would make a strong statement . . . the money will drive what this project is at the end of the day,” he said.

“I think the $400,000 the town allocated last year is making a significant statement,” returned Mr. Durkee.

Other committee members expressed reservations about giving so much money to a project mired in so much uncertainty, especially when the full request would effectively wash out all the committee’s funds.

“I think our problem is this request alone would consume 90 per cent of our funds this year,” Mr. Rock said. “That is something we have struggled with, at least I have.”

In a brief public comment period, Donald Muckerheide urged the committee to invest in the rental assistance program. “You need to take care of the people right now, and you get the most bang for your buck with [rental assistance],” he said.