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RI Housing Secretary Josh Saal resigns

WJAR Providence 1/12/2023 NBC 10 NEWS

After heavy pressure from advocates and criticism from state leaders, Rhode Island's housing Secretary Josh Saal submitted his resignation Wednesday.

In a release from Gov. Dan McKee's administration, a spokesperson announced Saal is stepping down, and that McKee accepted his resignation.

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Caption: NBC 10's Cal Dymowski reports{{ }} Rhode Island's housing Secretary Josh Saal submitted his resignation.

“We thank Secretary Saal for his work over the past year and look forward to building a Department of Housing that is innovative and responsive to the gravity this moment requires,” said Matt Sheaff, a senior communications advisor for McKee.

NBC 10 obtained a copy of Saal's resignation letter, in which he said not just one person can solve the housing crisis, and projected confidence in McKee's administration to complete it.

However, the now-outgoing housing 'czar' also noted the state's housing ecosystem suffered from a "decentralized structure."

"Housing and homelessness programs are currently being administered and led by several different state agencies as well as multiple non-governmental and quasi-governmental bodies," Saal said in his letter. "This approach has led to limitations on oversight, and to the unintentional creation of inefficient "silos" -- an ineffective practice that the creation of this new centralized agency aims to address."

House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi has been critical of Saal's tenure in charge of housing, pointing to a lack of money used to address the issues, despite hundreds of millions in funds poured in to do so.

“I am disappointed by the lack of progress that was made under Secretary Saal’s leadership and the inadequate reports he recently submitted to the legislature.," Shekarchi said in a statement Wednesday. "The General Assembly committed unprecedented resources to address affordable housing and homelessness in the last two budgets, and there has been very little funding spent so far. We need immediate production and I look forward to working with Governor McKee and a new secretary. The time to act is now! " 

House minority leader Mike Chippendale echoed that sentiment in his own statement, writing, "While Secretary Saal’s resignation is not a surprise and is appropriate given the revelations of the past few weeks, it has definitely driven home the need to have an experienced professional in the Housing Secretary role – someone who understands the unique needs and landscape of Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s critical affordable housing shortage is worthy of a leader who can make an immediate impact forging alliance with the various support organizations across the state and building consensus for a thoughtful plan of action."

In an interview last month, Saal told NBC 10 that the McKee administration was 100% committed to ending homelessness and not just managing it.

On Wednesday, the Governor's office reiterated that commitment.

“Housing is one of the most critical issues facing Rhode Island today and over the next decade. That’s why our Administration proposed a historic quarter-billion-dollar investment in creating and supporting more housing at all income levels. This issue is crucial to the families struggling today and to the long-term economic success of our state,” said Sheaff in a statement.

McKee told media housing is a top priority ahead of his State of the State address next week.

Saal's resignation is effective in two weeks from today, during which he will help in the transition period.

NBC 10's Cal Dymowski contributed to this report. 

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