Appreciating Mark Gropper

Mark Gropper, Executive Director of Renton Housing Authority, retired on January 6. We hope you will join us in congratulating Mark on this well-deserved new chapter!

Mark’s affordable housing story begins in 1983. He was studying pre-engineering at UW and eager to move out on his own, so when his friend told him about an opening for an “easy gig” where he could do his homework while watching a desk, he took it. That’s how 19-year-old Mark ended up working the graveyard shift at Seattle Housing Authority’s Morrison Hotel. With shifts from 11pm to 7am, the work turned out to be far from easy—but early on it had him hooked.

“It opened my eyes to a different world and a more enriching career. From that point on I poured my energy into being a houser.”

“It blew my mind,” says Mark about his early experiences at SHA. “I had no idea how my feelings about serving people and families would deepen. It changed my academic direction. It opened my eyes to a different world and a more enriching career. From that point on I poured my energy into being a houser.”

“There are very few positions at a housing authority I have not held,” Mark told us, laughing. “I even did a stint washing windows!” In his 18 years at SHA, the depth and breadth of Mark’s knowledge of housing authority work grew immensely as he went on to work in admissions, then later in administration. In 2001, intent on working closer to his Bonney Lake home, Mark accepted a job with the Renton Housing Authority, and was named Executive Director in 2010. Under his leadership, Renton Housing Authority has continued to provide quality affordable housing for people who choose to make Renton their home.

When asked about recent Renton Housing Authority accomplishments he is especially proud of, Mark pointed to Willowcrest Townhomes in the Sunset neighborhood of northeast Renton. Developed by Homestead Community Land Trust on land provided by RHA, Willowcrest I is a sustainable, permanently affordable community of 12 three- and four-bedroom homes. An expansion of the project, Willowcrest II, would add 19 additional homes to the community and is currently in the process of securing funding and permits.

Connection to local community is important to Mark. A Washingtonian with four grandparents raised in Pierce County, Mark himself grew up in Woodinville and attended Bothell High School, where he met his wife. Outside of his work with RHA, Mark has served on a local board for the Salvation Army, and just completed his tenure with the Renton Community Foundation. And of course, we at HDC are incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside Mark through his eight years of Board service (including terms as Board Secretary and Treasurer)! As a Board member, he’s helped us cultivate precious opportunities to come to the table collectively, to wrestle with possibilities, and to identify the most effective options for changing the course of the affordable housing crisis. We cannot thank Mark enough for his contributions to our work.

A photo of Mark Gropper smiling with a snowboard and snowy mountains in the background.

Following his retirement, Mark and his wife, who just retired from a career in oncology, are taking a much-deserved year-long sabbatical. They plan to road trip across the county to enjoy beaches, visit family, and hopefully visit a few spots related to another interest: sustainable food and local agriculture. After that, he’s not sure what’s next, but says we shouldn’t be surprised to see him back at housing events in 2024.

HDC turns 35 this year, and as we look toward our own new chapter in this anniversary year, we do so with deep gratitude for the foundations laid in place by lifelong contributors and leaders. With a 40-year career in affordable housing, Mark is undoubtedly among those whose legacy and leadership has shaped our past—and will continue to inform our future.

Thank you, Mark, for sharing your story with us—and thank you for your 40 years of service in the affordable housing sector!