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photo of Marcus HenryMarcus Henry

2001 MPA alumnus finds his passion in helping people through development of affordable housing

As the Wilmington (Del.) Housing Authority’s director of development, IPA alumnus Marcus Henry (MPA ’01) has found his passion—development of affordable housing.  “I feel that this is probably going to be my life’s work,” he says.

As the director of development, Henry is responsible for managing the nearly $20 million of ARRA stimulus funding the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) has received for its capital projects.  He also manages the Development and Capital Improvements Department, which includes staff supervision, planning, intergovernmental coordination, budgeting, and financing.  He oversees all construction-related activities and redevelopment of WHA properties in the City of Wilmington as well as the development of various types of multi-family projects within the city, including low-income-housing tax credit, public housing, and project-based section-8 housing.

Having been an executive assistant with the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) for the first few years after graduation, Henry moved on to become brownfields coordinator for Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and from there to a vice president’s position with the Delaware Valley Development Company, before joining WHA in January 2007.

Henry is stimulated by this work, but some of the biggest challenges he faces have to do with public perception.  “It’s difficult to facilitate the new construction and renovation of affordable housing when there is a lot of misunderstanding around affordable housing,” he says. “I feel that it is also part of my job to help to change the often negative perception people have of low- to moderate-income housing.”

Having worked for the DSHA director right out of school proved to be a big advantage for Henry.  “I had no firm background in housing, but through that experience, I learned about affordable housing and in-fill redevelopment, which led to my job with DNREC. It inspired me to focus on this aspect of public service.”

Henry looks back fondly on his preparation at the University of Delaware’s School of Public Policy & Administration, particularly the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. “The MPA program offered a great, diverse curriculum that gives you both academic and real-word experience, which prepares you for entering the government workforce.”  He goes on to laud the Legislative Fellows Program. “My focus at that time was more on the legislative process. I interned with the Delaware League of Local Governments and was a Legislative Fellow. The Legislative Fellows Program was and is a tremendous program, and I would recommend it highly to any MPA students interested in the legislative process.”

A solid background wasn’t the only dividend of the MPA program for Henry.  It was through this program that he met his wife Diliana, who hails from Bulgaria. They now have two children.

So what might Henry do with his experience in the world of affordable housing?  Besides all those he can indirectly help through what he does, he muses, “Perhaps, one day way down the road, I’ll run for public office.”  He may already sense that he has a career-path mentor in the White House.