Stefan Pryor, a well-known figure in state government due to his previous role as Commerce secretary, was named by Gov. Dan McKee on Wednesday as Rhode Island’s new secretary of housing.

“Housing is one of the most critical issues facing Rhode Island today and over the next decade,” McKee said in a statement. “We need to keep our children here in Rhode Island, not price them out of our state. And we need to make homes affordable to families of every income level, including families who are especially cost burdened.”

The selection of Pryor follows the resignation last week of Housing Secretary Josh Saal, who faced criticism for the state’s response to homelessness, a slow rollout of housing-production money, and other aspects of his performance.

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi was among Saal’s critics, and he applauded Pryor’s elevation.

“As Rhode Island faces a severe housing and homelessness crisis, Stefan Pryor has a demonstrated history of getting innovative development deals accomplished, such as the proposed transformation of the Superman Building,” Shekarchi said. “I am confident his strong skill set and deep knowledge of our state will enable him to hit the ground running. Stefan knows how critical housing is to our economy and virtually all aspects of Rhode Island life.”

Pryor was among the first officials hired by former Gov. Gina Raimondo before she took office in 2015.

He served as Commerce secretary until losing the primary race for general treasurer last year to fellow Democrat James Diossa.

Pryor, a 2006 alum of Yale University, previously served as state education commissioner in Connecticut, president of the group charting the recovery of Lower Manhattan after 9/11, and deputy mayor of economic development in Newark.

McKee also named Hannah Moore as deputy housing secretary and executive director of the state Housing Resources Commission. Moore is Pryor’s former deputy at Commerce RI, the state’s economic development agency.

With his irrepressible bearing, Pryor is more suited than Saal to the communication aspect of being housing secretary.

But Rhode Island has struggled for decades to confront a growing gap between the cost of housing and the ability of residents to pay for it. The median price of a single-family home topped $400,000 in December, and the state has suffered from a slow pace of new housing production.

Ian Donnis can be reached at