Lee F. Johnson, 72, a former executive vice president of the National Housing Conference, which lobbies for urban renewal and public housing, died of cancer Tuesday at his home in Buffalo Creek, Colo.

While he was executive vice president of the organization from 1944 to 1957, the Housing Act of 1949 was passed. It greatly expanded federal public housing activities and authorized what later became the Urban Renewal Program.

During this time the conference grew from a small New York-based group to a nationwide organization that advocated public housing.

Mr. Johnson felt that "good housing for all Americans is not the cure for all of our domestic social ill. It does, however, mark an excellent point from which to start."

He had worked as a federal housing official and from 1938 to 1940, helped administer the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, the first federal public housing program passed by Congress.

Mr. Johnson then worked until 1944 as an assistant commissioner of the Federal Public Housing Authority where he helped supervise management of the wartime public housing program.

Born in Littleton, Colo., he earned a journalism degree at the University of Colorado. He taught journalism at Colorado and worked for a time as a reporter for the Delta County Tribune in Colarado. He came to Washington as secretary to Sen. Edward P. Costigan (D-Colo.) in 1931. Mr. Johnson worked for the senator until 1936. He then went back to Colorado and worked as a newspaper editor and publisher for two years.

After retiring from the National Housing Conference in 1957, Mr. Johnson served as director of the Denver Housing Authority from 1958 to 1961.

He then became a consultant, and remained active in public housing adminstration in the Denver area. He was a member of the Colorado Urban League, acting director of Denver's Model Cities Program in 1968 and 1969, and a member of the Federal Housing Administration's advisory committee.

Mr. Johnson worked on the redevelopment of the South Platte area after extensive flood damage, and recently helped direct a successful water bond issue.

Mr. Johnson was the recipient of many awards. He was honored as an "outstanding alumnus" of the University of Colorado and named an "honorary member" by the Black Panthers for his work in easing racial tension in Denver during the 1960s.

He was a founding member of the National Capital Democratic Club and a member of the National Press Club.

He is survived by two sons, L. Farnum Jr., of Vienna, Va., and Air Force Lt. Col. Willard F., of Colorado Springs; a daughter, Phyllis J. Murphy, and a sister, Elizabeth Cross, both of Denver; 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.