Denise Muha Leadership Podcast


Affordable Housing Leadership

Ep. 12 - Denise Muha, the executive director for the National Leased Housing Association, discusses her personal growth to becoming one of the early women in a leadership position with influence on HUD and Congress because of her representation and knowledge of the affordable housing industry. She is unusual in that she is well versed in both the private sector and the public sector affordable housing programs. She is well respected in both arenas. In 2019 she was inducted into the Affordable Housing Finance Hall of Fame, a huge honor for anyone in the affordable housing field.  In her personal life, she lost a family member to suicide and discusses dealing with that loss.

Top Takeaways:

    • How to deal with the grief of losing a close family member to suicide
    • The power of taking the doors that open when it comes to your career
    • The difference between men and women in leadership
    • The difference between a lobbyist and an advocate in the affordable housing sector
    • How to accept failure as part of the success
    • The power of being confident and believing you're as good as anybody in the room

Learn why failure is part of your success journey and should be used as a learning ground.

" Sometimes the best things that ever happen are the mistakes that you make because you learn from them. It's okay to make mistakes, nobody knows everything." -Denise Muha

Best Leadership Podcast

Denise with Scholarship Check
NLHA Executive Director Denise Muha (center left) receives a ceremonial check representing Aimco's $130,000 donation for scholarships for students in affordable housing from Aimco Director of Communications Cindy Lempke (center right). They were joined by tournament sponsors Christine Espenshade of Jones Lang LaSalle, and Jodi Killar and Zakk Adouma of Apartment Guide, along with D.C. area Aimco team members. (PRNewsFoto/Aimco)

When Muha first moved to Washington, D.C., in 1985, she got an administrative job with the National Leased Housing Association (NLHA), knowing little about the industry. As she learned the "rules and regulations" of the public and private sector housing field, Denise became passionate about the affordable housing industry. Three years later, she became executive director of the organization, which advocates for housing providers specializing in federally assisted rental housing. She has held this position since 1988 and has acted as both an advocate and a lobbyist for affordable housing in the Congress. She is active in housing policy and plays a key role when program decisions are being made in Congress and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Treasury Department.

NLHA is a vital and effective advocate for 500 housing provider organizations and their consultants, specializing in federally assisted rental housing. Though NLHA's constituencies are many, the goal of the Association is one: the provision and maintenance of quality affordable rental housing for low and moderate income Americans. In her role she works with the NLHA's 500 member organization on policy issues and represents them before the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Congress. In addition to her day-to-day work at NLHA, she formed a separate nonprofit scholarship program for residents of federally assisted rental housing. In 12 years, they have given out $1.3 million to about 475 students.

Learn the importance of showing confidence and believing in yourself to be as smart as the smartest person in the room.

Key Moments:

Denise explains how the housing sector has changed since the 1980s when she started and there were fewer women compared to today [1:47]

How a recession and job scarcity in the hotel sector in Pittsburg led Denise to Washington D.C. and a career that impacted her whole life [3:36]

She talks about her first job in DC which was as an association's administrator at the National Leased Housing Association [5:03]

How Denise became the executive director for the National Leased Housing Association and how she approached the role with her natural curiosity [6:16]

Why honesty when working at Capitol Hill is the most important thing, plus understanding other people's perspective even when lobbying for your own view [14:14]

She talks about the strong work ethic taught to her by her parents, plus the different struggles she had balancing work and family life [17:06]

The contribution Denise made in her career lobbying for subsidy programs which she feels made a huge difference in the affordable housing sector [19:23]

The pain of losing loved ones and learning to deal with the pain through support groups [21:38]

Denise advises younger people to be confident, learn to trust their instincts, and not be afraid of failure [28:44]

Relevant Links:

NLHA Website

Hall of Fame


Pop Quiz with Denise Muha

C-Span Appearance

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