The housing industry lost a good friend last month with the passing of Lawrence B. Simons, a developer, lawyer, and long-time advocate for affordable housing. He was 87 and he passed away in Hilton Head, S.C., where he lived.
Simons served as FHA commissioner and assistant secretary for housing at HUD during the Carter administration, and under his leadership the federal government hit some high water marks in providing rental assistance to households in need.
During his tenure, almost 1.5 million affordable rental units were added to the country’s affordable rental housing inventory, about half of those through Section 8 vouchers and certificates, the other half through below-market interest-rate financing for development or rehab of rental apartment buildings.
Although his focus was on affordable rental housing, he was a leader in all aspects of residential real estate. He served on the boards of numerous housing advocacy organizations and for many years was on the board of advisors of Housing & Development Reporter, where I worked as a reporter for much of the 1990s.
What I remember from my years of association with him was his generosity, humor, and unflagging concern for households struggling to improve their lives. Although people differ on how much the federal government should be involved in housing markets, including rental markets, Simons was animated by a desire to help people who were in need of safe and affordable housing, so he leveraged his considerable expertise to that end. Struggling households have lost a voice on their behalf.