The Martha’s Vineyard Commission unanimously approved the Southern Tier housing complex Thursday, determining that the benefits of the proposed 45- to 48-unit affordable development outweigh the loss of habitat and impacts on neighbors.

“You have a project, at least as far as we’re concerned,” MVC chair Joan Malkin told the developers at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Southern Tier must still go through the local permitting process in Oak Bluffs. The town selected the Island Housing Trust and Affirmative Investments to create an affordable neighborhood on about eight acres of town-owned woodlands adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena at the YMCA.

The developers — whose Meshacket Commons affordable complex in Edgartown received MVC approval last November — have promised that no fossil fuels will be used to power Southern Tier, where every building will have rooftop solar panels.

While the Edgartown project includes both rental and ownership units, Southern Tier’s apartments will be for affordable rental only, with legal protections to keep them that way.

“The applicants have made it clear that the regulatory agreements they have to sign — and there are several of them, including a covenant with the town — will make it virtually impossible for these rental apartments ever to be converted to ownership,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said.

Craig Nicholson at Affirmative Investments and Philippe Jordi at Island Housing Trust have also pledged that three of the Southern Tier apartments will be fully accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the entire development will be built with universal design principals for easier access by people of all abilities.

With no town wastewater treatment for the area, Southern Tier will use an advanced denitrifying septic system and make up for its excess nitrogen production by either installing similar systems at other properties in the watershed or working with the town to preserve open land from development.

In future years, Oak Bluffs’ housing plans envision a wastewater plant to serve the entire neighborhood, including another 12 to 15 affordable apartments for Southern Tier on a 24-acre parcel obtained in a property swap with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.

While no commissioners opposed Thursday’s decision, some expressed reservations.

A chief concern was the permanent loss of natural open space that has been classified as priority habitat by the state. The developers intend to keep nearly two acres open, but the rest will be built over.

“It actually goes against the MVC open space policy,” said commissioner Jeff Agnoli. “[I am] bowing to the strong public support for it, but this aspect of it is definitely a detriment as far as I’m concerned. It’s priority habitat.”

Commissioners also acknowledged that the new neighborhood will have an impact on nearby residents, who have objected to the project.

But the commission ultimately agreed that the complex is essential.

“It gets some apartments on the market more quickly than any other thing we can do, and the need just keeps getting greater every day,” said commissioner Fred Hancock.

Southern Tier is an example of how the Island housing crunch is forcing the MVC to approve developments that could be planned better, commissioner Ben Robinson said.

“The crisis has pushed us to choose these types of models,” he said.

“In the long term we’re going to have to think much more strategically about how we add housing to the Island. In the short term, this is all we have,” Mr. Robinson said.

Among other business Thursday, the commission closed its hearing on Outermost Inn owner Hugh Taylor’s application to install a steel patio canopy, keeping the written record open until Feb. 16 at 5 p.m., and finalized its written decision allowing construction of the Four Sisters Inn in Oak Bluffs.

The commission also opened and continued a hearing on Big Sky Tents’ proposed 27,000-square-foot building on a three-acre Edgartown lot at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport business park.

The Big Sky hearing will resume Feb. 9, after owner Jim Eddy has placed tentpoles on the property so that commissioners and MVC staff can see how visible the 32-foot-high building might be from nearby Barnes Road.

The commission’s Feb. 9 meeting will also see the return of Stillpoint, a proposed humanities center on a rural estate in West Tisbury that came before the MVC last year. Owner Thomas Bena has submitted changes to the Stillpoint application that warrant re-opening the hearing to discuss his latest proposal, Ms. Malkin said.