The Housing Authority of the City and County of Fresno — the largest property owner in the city — is searching for a new CEO. Preston Prince, who led the agency for 14 years, will depart March 31 to become the executive director of the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.

Prince said in an interview with The Fresno Bee that the new position provides him an opportunity to grow with a housing authority that is larger than Fresno and represents a ”chance to take my skills and apply it to a new market, a really difficult market.”

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority has “some of the same underlying conditions in terms of the poverty of the families” as Fresno, but in a “really high-cost area,” he said. He did not want to leave Fresno but could not turn down an opportunity “to do something different in a really hard economy, hard market.”

“[Prince’s] work has been transformative,” Cary Catalano, county chair of the Fresno Housing Boards of Commissioners, said. “We appreciate the leadership he has brought to our organization and the entire community, in terms of giving our residents the quality housing and services they truly deserve.”

According to an announcement released by the Fresno Housing Authority, “Prince was instrumental in creating partnerships with public and private agencies, and increasing the level of awareness of the role stable housing plays for low-income families.”

The announcement also credits him with creating “healthy neighborhoods throughout Fresno County and improving educational, health and wellness outcomes for residents.”

Largest property owner in city

The Fresno Housing Authority is the largest property owner in the city and provides housing services to approximately 50,000 residents throughout Fresno County.

The agency’s housing choice voucher program (also known as Section 8) issues 13,000 HUD vouchers to about 38,000 people, including approximately 17,000 children. The agency also operates public housing throughout Fresno County that accommodates about 11,000 residents, including 5,500 children. Additionally, the Fresno Housing Authority provides housing assistance through a mix of low-income housing tax credits, grants, and/or conventional funding.

On leaving the Fresno Housing Authority amidst a housing crisis, with rents booming and homelessness increasing, Prince said that there are many great initiatives to help those at risk of losing their homes, including housing assistance payments, eviction moratorium, purchase of motels and addressing the digital divide.

“The pandemic has illuminated the inequities we face. Fresno Housing is focused on program continuity, creating alternative strategies like purchasing more motels, and building more housing,” he said.

Adrian Jones, city chair of the Fresno Housing Boards of Commissioners, called Prince “a leader who always kept his commitment to the residents we serve as his highest priority.”

Prince said he made the decision to accept the job over the weekend and informed board members on Monday and Tuesday.

Succession plan in place for new CEO

Catalano said he was confident that the agency’s board and leadership will continue the “important work around resident services, homelessness, sustaining neighborhoods of opportunity, real-estate development and so much more.”

According to Prince, the Fresno Housing Board of Commissioners has a succession plan that it will most likely use to select the new CEO. Catalano said that the entire board will be discussing the next steps in choosing and announcing a new leader within the next few weeks.

Prince said he would like his legacy to be that he left “an agency that was not compliance focused, but really focused on residents.”

He said he is proud of bringing a business model to a public agency and using real estate to create great outcomes as well as the “incredible staff that will continue to work to improve Fresno for everyone.”

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