Melissa Sanzaro, a native Rhode Islander, is the first woman to serve as Executive Director of the Providence Housing Authority in its 80-year history. Melissa began as Executive Director in January of 2018, having previously served three years as Deputy Director and five years prior to that in the PHA’s Special Projects Office. Since joining the agency, Sanzaro has focused on re-energizing community and resident relationships, building on past successes, and on innovative and comprehensive approaches to providing viable and healthy housing and life-changing opportunities to the Providence community.
Early in her career, Melissa worked at Miriam Hospital in Providence and later as a real estate agent for over a decade – all while attending and graduating from the University of Rhode Island and raising her beautiful daughter Jayda. It was at this time that Melissa developed her passion for working on cross-sector collaborations and to ensuring access to healthy and stable housing for all.
Melissa serves as a member of the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission, representing the Public Housing Association of Rhode Island on that body, and volunteers her time as a board member of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, in addition to numerous other ad hoc committees and commissions she has advised over the past several years.
The Providence Housing Authority announced today the appointments of Peter Asen as Deputy Director of Development and Governmental Affairs and Jacqueline Martinez as Deputy Director of Operations and Housing Programs. The pair will serve as chief assistants to Executive Director Melissa Sanzaro, who has served in that role since 2018. The new positions were established as part of an ongoing reorganization that comes out of PHA’s 2020-2025 strategic plan.
“I am honored to be a part of a very talented and resident-focused leadership team here at the PHA,” said Melissa Sanzaro. “The new appointments of Peter and Jackie recognize their dedication to this agency, and I am confident they will propel us towards our goals to improve management operations and to build capacity to expand and preserve affordable housing in Providence and beyond.”
“The PHA board has been committed to working with Melissa to strengthen the agency’s work to provide quality housing opportunities and services to low-income Rhode Islanders, and we believe these appointments will help PHA continue to better fulfill its mission,” said Nicolas Retsinas, Chair of the PHA board of Commissioners.
Deputy Director of Development and Governmental Affairs Peter Asen has worked at PHA since 2018 as Director of Strategy and Development and previously worked as the Director of the Healthy Communities Office for the City of Providence, with more than ten years of experience in public agencies. Asen has extensive experience in policy development, fundraising, communications, community engagement and intergovernmental affairs. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Master’s of Science in Labor Studies from University of Massachusetts-Amherst.