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Michael Simmons to step down from FHAB

“It was a good run.” That’s how Michael Simmons, CPM®, sums up his 20 years as a member of IREM’s Federal Housing Advisory Board (FHAB). That tenure will end at the start of the new year, capping a period of advocacy for IREM members in the face of some intensive issues.

“It’s time to step aside, to allow someone else to participate and have this experience, which provides such a valuable service to our membership,” says Simmons, who is senior advisor and chief business development officer at Community Realty Management, AMO®, in Pleasantville, NJ. The firm manages approximately 8,500 units of affordable housing throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, the Midwest and the US Virgin Islands.

A valuable service indeed. Over the course of the past two decades, FHAB has been front and center, in Simmons’ words: “to meet face-to-face with senior officials from the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Rural Housing Service (RHS) and other governmental and regulatory agencies in Washington, DC, to review their directives and share member comments and concerns.”

It should be noted here that Simmons also served as IREM president in 1999 (before the title grew to international president) and president of the IREM Foundation in 2004 and 2005. “After his presidency,” says fellow FHAB member Pamela W. Monroe, CPM®, “Michael dedicated much of his leadership energy to his passion for affordable housing, collaborating with various FHAB members to meet with HUD, RHS and members of the US legislature and the US Treasury Department. He has been a constant voice for IREM member stakeholders who own or manage affordable housing.” 

Issues to which Simmons has added his voice, include:

  • HUD’s creation of the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC). According to its website, REAC, through “its Physical Inspections Line of Business, improves housing quality by performing accurate, credible, and reliable assessments of HUD’s real estate portfolio; helps ensure safe, healthy, decent affordable housing; and promotes sound property management practices.”

“Along with other involved associations, FHAB was fully engaged in discussions with HUD during REAC’s creation on how physical inspections should be conducted,” says Simmons.

  • FHAB was on hand after the devastating 2017 hurricane season to address “presidentially declared disaster areas,” says Simmons. “As a result of those disasters, insurance rates went through the ceiling, in some cases, doubling and tripling, beyond what budgets could handle.” 

Ironically, HUD itself, as well as mortgage holders, require the insurance, he explains. “We were one of a group of concerned associations to discuss rent adjustments to help us keep the insurance in place. We provided the industry input, and HUD acknowledged the issue.”

  • Also, when HUD opted to turn over responsibility for the national supervision of properties through regional contract administrators, FHAB was there as well. 

“We were engaged in ongoing discussions of how that would work in terms of reporting responsibility and consistency in contract administration from one region to another,” Simmons explains. “We wanted to make sure there was uniformity and fairness as they transitioned to regional Performance-based Contract Administrators (PBCAs).”

  • And today, as the issue of COVID-based unemployment runs through the affordable housing sector, FHAB is there as well.

“We’re engaged in ongoing discussions with HUD so we can stay abreast of the issue and keep our members informed,” he says.

“Because of Michael’s passion for maintaining relationships with our government stakeholders, IREM has been a leading force for the affordable housing industry,” Monroe adds. 

While Simmons plans to step down from FHAB, he is in no way retiring. Rather, it’s a time of transition. Just as he sees new blood coming onto the Board, he’s been concerned with succession planning at Community Realty Management, and he stepped down from his tenure as president and CEO last year.

“In this transitioning time in our company leadership,” he says, “we need to maintain strong relationships we’ve built with all of the various HUD offices and state housing finance agencies.” Hence the firm continues to capitalize on Simmons’ background while simultaneously adding that new blood.

And still, he’s not done. Simmons has a new property management association position starting in November. He’ll serve as president of the National Affordable Housing Management Association.

The succession planning Simmons referenced at his firm is clearly a concern for the entire industry. To that extent, he credits IREM for tackling the issue head-on.

“Fortunately, IREM recognized this several years ago and has multiple initiatives focused on Next Gen as baby boomers step away,” he says, “and they’re keeping their education relevant.”

That education will be critical to handling affordable housing’s legislative and regulatory issues, he says: “We need to make sure that our representatives have a good working knowledge and understanding of federally assisted housing programs to best represent the concerns of our members.”

Michael Simmons may be stepping down from the board, but the issues, he says, are “unending and evolving, and more are always forthcoming.”

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