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Seniors Housing Business Interviews David Schless

David Schless oversees new chapter in ASHA’s 23-year history

The association responsible for giving a voice to seniors housing is going to great lengths to map out its next strategic moves.

David Schless is the first and only president of the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) that its members have ever known. After 21 years at the helm, he can rattle off the names of the industry’s pioneers and key players without hesitation, almost as if they were extended family members. That’s one advantage of possessing institutional knowledge.

Based in Washington, D.C., ASHA began as a Seniors Housing Committee within the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC; now named National Multifamily Housing Council) in 1991 before being spun off in 2000.

Before joining NMHC as a vice president in 1991, Schless worked for two years as a researcher with the National Association for Senior Living Industries. The timing of his arrival at NMHC was perfect. By the early 1990s, a number of apartment owners and operators were expressing their interest in the independent living business.

“You had companies like Marriott Senior Living Services and Classic Residence by Hyatt, and a number of companies within NMHC, like Holiday Retirement and Capital Senior Living, that were really beginning to focus their energy on senior living,” recalls Schless. “They approached NMHC and asked, ‘Would it be conceivable for you to try and do for the senior living industry what you’ve done for multifamily housing since the late 1970s?’ It really came together that way.”

NMHC was the ideal organization for incubating what became ASHA, emphasizes Schless. “They were just a powerhouse organization led by an incredible group of multifamily executives. They were very focused and very well run. For me, being 25 years old or so at the time, I was a sponge. I had such a great opportunity to learn from an organization that did so many things right.

And because NMHC was stable financially, we just didn’t have the pressure that a lot of start-ups faced in having to try and get people to join just because they needed money. We could focus on quality not quantity.”

Today, ASHA has approximately 400 members and plays a critical role in providing leadership for the seniors housing industry on legislative and regulatory matters, research, education and the exchange of strategic business information. Schless has officially served as president of the organization since 1993. During that time the industry has matured, diversified, attracted an abundance of new capital sources, weathered a few recessions and proven its mettle to investors.

Seniors Housing Business recently interviewed Schless to discuss the organization’s past, present and future and its distinct culture.

Click on Download File to read the full interview.