The lack of affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard has reached a crisis, where businesses and essential services are being increasingly hobbled by an inability to find workers. Next week, voters in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury will decide whether the solution is the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank, a complicated initiative that has both virtues and risk.

The proposal needs approval by at least four of the six Island towns (Chilmark and Aquinnah will vote later) in order to be sent to the state legislature, which has been grappling with a version of the same issue in Boston and statewide. One of a dozen bills now pending on Beacon Hill would enable any town in Massachusetts to adopt a transfer fee of up to two per cent on property sales to create and support affordable housing — a key feature of the Martha’s Vineyard plan.

The Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank plan is more ambitious. While the statewide enabling legislation would use existing town affordable housing committees to administer the funds, the housing bank proposal would create a new Islandwide commission, assisted by new town advisory boards, with broad powers to borrow money, and make grants, loans, bond guarantees and interest subsidies. The new structure may appeal to those who have been unhappy with the pace of town efforts to create affordable housing, but it will also create an entirely new and untested regional government entity.

The Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank has correctly said that approval of the housing bank proposal is simply a first step in a lengthy process. At a minimum, the legislature will need to pass a special bill that would then need to come back to the voters for a second approval. Advocates have done an excellent job of mobilizing the urgent, widespread concern on the Island about the high cost and scarcity of housing into support for the housing bank, saying the legislature needs to know the Island is committed to action.

But voters will actually be approving a detailed 27-page bill that can only be amended if the select boards of two-thirds of the towns where it has passed agree. Many provisions of the bill are laudable, including a requirement that a minimum of 75 per cent of the funds be committed to previously developed land. Advocates have pointed to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank as the model, but unlike the land bank the new entity will not simply purchase and hold property for public conservation. Rather, it is empowered to borrow money, set deed restrictions, guarantee private loans and fund developers, opening the door to a variety of unforeseen consequences.

Voters are advised to read not just the town meeting warrant article, but the bill it describes.

The need for more affordable housing to support the Island’s year-round workforce is acute and undeniable, but there is also a looming, if longer-term question of how much more development the Island can bear. This is the sustainability issue that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is just beginning to grapple with, and it involves not just the Island’s finite natural resources, but the limits of what the schools, roads and other infrastructure can absorb.

The architects of the housing bank proposal have tried to foresee some of these issues in describing the bank’s powers and limitations, but figuring out how to create new housing without imposing new burdens on the Island will be a very careful balancing act for a new seven-member commission.