The National Leased Housing Association (NLHA) is instrumental in advocating for providers of federally assisted rental housing.

Denise Muha, executive director, National Leased Housing Association
Lauren Bulbin Denise Muha, executive director, National Leased Housing Association

Led by executive director Denise Muha, the organization helps form housing policy and keeps the industry on top of important legislative and regulatory changes.

In addition, NLHA has just opened its resident scholarship fund to applicants. The NLHA Education Fund was established in 2007 and has provided more than $1.5 million in tuition assistance to residential of federally assisted rental housing. Scholarships are provided on behalf of eligible individuals living in privately owned federally assisted housing, which includes project-based rental assistance, low-income housing tax credit, or Section 8 voucher recipients.

Affordable Housing Finance caught up with Muha to get her take on the latest housing issues and NLHA’s work.

What stands out in the new fiscal 2025 HUD budget proposal?

The fact that sufficient funding is proposed to renew all project-based Section 8 contracts as well as renew all housing vouchers—despite the debt ceiling agreement caps.

In addition, the proposed $81.3 billion in “mandatory” funds is clear recognition by the Biden administration that massive investment in affordable housing is essential. Like the fiscal 2024 budget proposal, over $7 billion would be slated for the production of new project-based rental assistance (PBRA) funding; this is very gratifying to someone like me that has spent decades promoting PBRA preservation. It is doubtful that Congress will agree to the “mandatory” funding, but I appreciate it just the same. A foot in the door.

What are your thoughts about the retirement of HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge?

Secretary Fudge has done an outstanding job highlighting the priorities of the administration, including the Supply Action Plan; access to broadband; decreasing homelessness; tackling eviction prevention; and more. The job requires a lot of travel so I am not surprised that she is looking to spend more time at home in Ohio, but I was not expecting an announcement until the end of the year. I am particularly pleased that Adrianne Todman was tapped as acting secretary. She has been phenomenal in her role as deputy secretary.

What key issues are you watching this year?

For NLHA, the implementation of the authority to provide budget-based rent adjustments to properties that went through the Mark-to-Market program. We worked very hard to accomplish the necessary legislative change and are anxious to see the results. In addition, we have been working with our industry peers on the challenge of rising insurance costs and are looking for Federal Housing Administration and the government-sponsored enterprises to modify their insurance requirements to address today’s realities along with potential legislative action.

Tell us about NLHA’s Education Fund and this year’s scholarship program.

Our scholarship program was established in 2008 to provide tuition assistance to assisted housing residents. We are accepting applications for our 2024 round from students seeking to go to college, graduate school, or pursue vocational training. The deadline is April 12 for electronic submissions to Successful applicant awards are generally between $1,500 and $4,000. We have strong support from the housing industry, including AIR Communities, which partnered with NLHA early on to help us succeed. Our goal this year is to fund as many as 100 students.

What else is ahead for NLHA in 2024?

NLHA’s members are focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and its use in the housing world, be it application intake/processing; staffing; maintenance; and more. This year, we will be working on AI best practices. AI is a little intimidating for a lot of people, including me.