Longtime Island summer resident Joseph Bower believes that mounting obstacles to providing affordable housing demand community-wide engagement. In an effort to broaden the conversation, Mr. Bower is offering a $1,000 prize to a high school student with the best ideas for how to approach what has become a many-sided crisis related to a tangle of factors: the seasonal economy, high construction costs, protective zoning laws, the cost of land and intermunicipal politics, to name a few.

Mr. Bower has announced an essay contest for juniors and seniors at the regional high school and the charter school, and he said he is looking for fresh, viable proposals.

“It’s really quite incredible what young people can do when they put their mind to it,” the Harvard Business School professor said by telephone this week.

He said while there are many groups addressing the issue, affordable housing has mostly been discussed in forums like zoning board meetings and town meetings, and the high school represents a community space that is not inherently political.

“There are some subjects, and this is one of them, that really are deeply political in the best sense, in the sense that the whole community has to support an idea if something is going to happen,” Mr. Bower said. “I think working with the high school is a good way of tapping into the community,” he said. “This is neutral territory.”

For the contest, Mr. Bower has formatted a series of questions for writers: How big is the problem? How will it change over time? What kind of action or changes in policy would help? What organizations or institutions are responsible for taking such actions or making such changes? What government bodies are involved? What are the common characteristics of communities that have taken major steps to mitigate the problem?

Students can work in teams of up to three to come up with sharply focused, solution-oriented proposals ranging in length from 1,000 to 5,000 words.

The judging committee will be made up of regional high school English teacher Christine Ferrone, Vineyard Gazette publisher Jane Seagrave and Mr. Bower.

The winning essay will be published in part or in full in the Vineyard Gazette, depending on the length.

Essays are due Dec. 21, and can be submitted by to school principals, mailed or or emailed to the prize committee care of Vineyard Gazette. Pages should be numbered, double-spaced and should include the applicants’ names with home address and telephone number. The Vineyard Gazette postal address is Box 66, Edgartown, MA 02568. Essays can be emailed to publisher@vineyardgazette.com.