Smokefree Public and Affordable Housing
In recent years, public and affordable housing is recognizing the public health need to provide smokefree housing and economic benefits of instituting smokefree policies.
All 20 public housing authorities in Maine have adopted 100% smokefree policies. Maine is the first state to protect all public housing tenants. Read the press release and a New York Times news article. The policies were adopted August 1, 2011 and become effective January 1, 2012.
Boston is also set to have 100% smokefree public housing beginning September 30, 2012 as it will require tenants to sign a lease addendum with the smokefree policy upon signing new annual leases. Read the August 29, 2012 final notice to tenants from the Boston Housing Authority. Read a January 2012 Boston Globe news article announcing that it will be the largest city in the U.S. to protect public housing tenants from secondhand smoke and a September 28, 2012 news article about the implementation.
HUD Encourages Smokefree Policies: Notices, Publications, Funding, Litigation
HUD Notices. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced milestones in 2009 and 2010, in support of smokefree policies for HUD public housing. HUD's July 17, 2009 Notice (PIH-2009-21) strongly encouraged Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units and addresses:
- Dangers of secondhand smoke exposure
- Fire-related risks associated with smoking
- Improving indoor air quality inside public housing, with minimal costs
- Decreasing maintenance and turnover costs associated with smoking-permitted units
HUD issued a follow-up September
15, 2010 Notice which clarified PIH-2009-21 and
outlined new requirements when implementing smokefree policies
for HUD housing.
On May 29, 2012 HUD reissued this notice as PIH-2012-25 with reorganized but similar content and no expiration date, encouraging Public Housing Authorities to adopt smoke-free housing policies.
HUD Publications. The February 2012 issue of HUD's The Resident Newsletter encourages HUD residents to work with their public housing authority, resident council and neighbors, to create a smokefree policy for their building.
On June 19, 2012 HUD issued a press release describing their new smokefree policy toolkits for residents and owners/management agents to help federally-assisted housing properties adopt smokefree policies. The toolkits list GASP as a Housing and Legal resource for technical assistance.
HUD's July 2009 Notice resulted in a flurry of newsletters in support of smokefree housing. The February 2012 issue of HUD's The Resident Newsletter [kh - link to pdf of newsletter here] encourages HUD residents to work with their public housing authority, resident council and neighbors, to create a smokefree policy for their building. HUD's September 2009 Ecowise newsletter, discusses encouraging information for PHAs to consider instituting smokefree policies for their properties. The National Center for Healthy Housing also issued a 4-page informational document in support of smokefree housing (see below for details).
HUD's 2009 Healthy Homes Strategic plan was developed to support the Office of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes. On June 9, 2009 the Office of the Surgeon General announced the inititative at a press conference with both HUD and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Participants acknowledged the health consequences of secondhand smoke.
Prior to the July 2009 HUD Notice and HUD's 2009 Healthy Homes Strategic Plan, HUD shared public health messaging about the dangers of secondhand smoke in the home:
Yourself to a Healthy Home,
a 58-page guide published by HUD in January 2009, addresses
the impact of tobacco smoke on indoor air quality:
- Living with a smoker causes and adds to breathing problems and heart disease. (pgs. 2, 26)
- Cigarette smoke makes indoor air quality unhealthful. (page 4)
- "Tobacco smoking causes cancer and other major health problems. It's unsafe for children to be around smokers. Second-hand or environmental tobacco smoke can raise children's risk of ear infections and breathing problems. It can trigger asthma attacks, too." (page 9, 14)
- Action Steps for Living in a Healthy Home: "Do note smoke in your home or car. Never smoke near your children." (pgs. 11)
- "Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke causes health problems, especially for people with asthma. It is best to quit smoking. Otherwise, smoke outside and away from children. Don't light up in your car, because smoke will linger there and affect children." (page 17)
- Tobacco smoke is a source of carbon monoxide. (page 25)
- HUD's Seven Healthy Homes Principles published in May 2008 addresses secondhand smoke in the fifth principal: "Keep your home Contaminant-Free: Chemical exposures include lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and environmental tobacco smoke. Exposures to asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, and second-hand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside."
- Since 2007, tobacco smoke is listed on HUD's website as a trigger for allergies and asthma.
HUD Funding. Summer 2009 produced another smokefree milestone for HUD public housing. For the first time, a HUD funding opportunity agreed to award one extra point to a PHA's application, if that PHA agrees to "enforce a 'no-smoking' policy in all common and individual living areas in all buildings". (See HUD 2009 Notice of Funding Availability ("NOFA") for Capital Fund Recovery Competition Grants" on page 79, "Strategy for Green Communities"; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (a.k.a federal stimulus). Awarding an extra point for a smokefree housing policy is an excellent incentive to make an application more competitive, and hopefully serve as a catalyst in adopting smokefree policies for PHAs. The deadline for PHAs to submit their grant applications for these three competitive grants was August 18, 2009.
HUD Litigation. In October 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a lawsuit alleging violation of the Fair Housing Act, charging an Ocala, FL property owner, management company, and its employees with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to allow a resident to move to a different apartment after her neighbor's second-hand smoke twice sent her to the emergency room. Read an October 14, 2011 HUD press release. Highlights are:
- "Owners and managers of low-income housing tax credit properties, like others, must rent and manage apartments in a manner consistent with the Fair Housing Act," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "A transfer to another unit when it is medically necessary not only affords a person with a disability the same opportunity to enjoy her housing as others do, but may also be critical to that person's well-being. HUD will ensure through its enforcement of the law that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live in the housing of their choice."
- According to HUD, the housing managers claimed, falsely, that tax regulations prevented the tenant's transfer without her being treated as a new tenant, necessitating an application fee and additional security deposit, as well as an early termination fee for vacating her current unit. To avoid paying the early termination fee, the tenant waited to move to the requested unit until after her lease expired, nearly a year after her first request. Management still charged her the application fee and additional security deposit.
- If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that illegal discrimination has occurred, the judge may award monetary damages to the resident for the harm she was caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the resident.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275(TTY).
"Healthy Housing" Initiatives Support Smokefree MUH
In the summer of 2012, The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), the Center for Housing Policy, ChangeLab Solutions, and Trust for America’s Health released a call for greater collaboration between the public health and housing communities in the paper, "Housing and Health: New Opportunities for Dialogue and Action." This paper summarizes the health effects of housing quality, housing affordability, physical neighborhood attributes, and social and community attribute. It also recommends a coordinated and integrated approach among housing, environmental health, and public health agencies to help improve the health of children, older adults, and other community members. See page 3 of this paper, which discusses SHS as a housing health hazard, according to the federal government's National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council.
NCHH published Reasons to Explore Smoke-Free Housing in September 2009 which discusses the monetary impact of rehabilitation costs for turning over smoking vs. nonsmoking units, other cost saving measures from creating smokefree MUH policies, and the positive health effects of a smokefree MUH policy.
A Maintenance Manager of Senior Services of Snohomish County, Washington documented a lower refurbishment cost of $2665 per nonsmoking unit. Michigan public housing authority's smokefree housing policy includes an excess wear and tear charge assessed for burn marks and nicotine stains (to be recovered from security deposit) annual inspections to ensure that smoke residue does not build up (with frequent cleaning and wall washing). If inspections show that the unit is not being maintained, then the tenant could result in the loss of the grandfathered status. NCHH's training materials also discuss smokefree housing (see slides 1-4).
On May 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published its new Healthy Homes Manual Smoke-Free Policies in Multiunit Housing. It is designed for state and local Healthy Homes programs working to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing. This Manual provides field-tested strategies, recommendations, best practices and tools. The content draws on peer-reviewed research and interviews with practitioners. The Manual is intended to frame issues and provide guidance for programs.
On June 9, 2009 the Office of the Surgeon General announced the Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes at a press conference with both HUD and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Participants acknowledged the health consequences of secondhand smoke. HUD's 2009 Healthy Homes Strategic Plan was developed to support the Office of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes.
EPA/HHS Partnership: Smokefree Homes for Head Start Families
Asthma is the most frequently reported chronic health condition for Head Start Children, as reported by Head Start programs nationwide (2002 Report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Bureau (HHS); 2002-2005 Head Start Program Information Reports). These findings led to the EPA Smokefree Homes for Head Start Families, a partnering between the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Radiation and Indoor Air and HHS, whose Memorandum of Understanding outlines the purpose of the Partnership:
- To educate staff and parents of Head Start and Early Head Start programs on the importance of reducing children's exposure to environmental asthma triggers and the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
- To align the collective missions to increase awareness of secondhand smoke's health effects on childen, asthmatics, and other adults in the household who are at an increased risk for chronic disease from secondhand smoke. Visit the EPA's webpage to learn more about the Partnership.
- To accomplish the education of Head Start staff and parents through the promotion and distribution of EPA's Asthma and Smoke-Free Homes Program messages and educational materials for use in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Visit the EPA's webpage to find downloadable kid-friendly materials to help implement the Partnership's objectives.
Supporters of Smokefree Public and Affordable Housing
The December 2010 Tax Credit Housing Management Insider newsletter's feature story is "How to Implement a Smoke-Free Policy". Tips include how to conduct a resident survey, educate the residents about the new smokefree policy, offer incentives for residents who quit smoking, handle violations, and sample notice of violation.
The elderly population living in HUD housing benefits from a smokefree housing policy. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging calls the 2009 HUD notice, "an encouraging development given that, as HUD noted, elderly populations which make up 15 percent of the residents living in public housing are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of smoking."
Newsweek published an opinion on July 13, 2009 written by Dr. Jonathan Winnickoff in support of the July 2009 HUD Notice.
Scientific Studies Support the Need for Smokefree Public Housing
Read this April 13, 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which concludes:
"Prohibiting smoking in all U.S. subsidized housing would yield cost-savings of approximately $521 million per year, including $341 million in SHS-related healthcare expenditures, $108 million in renovation expenses, and $72 million in smoking-attributable fire losses. Prohibiting smoking in U.S. public housing alone would yield cost-savings of approximately $154 million per year"
The Fall 2010 Harvard Public Health Review article, Public Housing, Private Vice; Should smoking be banned in people's homes?, outlines the health concerns with secondhand hand smoke exposure in public housing.
CDC has concluded that ventilation systems are ineffective
against secondhand smoke. Visit the CDC's webpage "Ventilation
Does Not Effectively Protect Nonsmokers from Secondhand Smoke."
A May 2010 University of Rochester study showed the high rate of children being exposed to secondhand smoke in apartment living, even when the child does not live with a smoker. Secondhand smoke exposure can seep through walls and shared ventilation, according to the author of the study, Karen Wilson, MD, MPH. Key finding: Apartment living was associated with a 45% increase in cotinine levels for African American children and a 207% increase for white children. About 18% of U.S. children live in apartments. The authors conclusion recommends that smoking bans within public housing can lower secondhand smoke exposure for children and reduce smoking rates among residents, citing the July 17, 2009 HUD notice that recommends public housing authorities enact smoke-free policies.
The December 2009 issue of Tobacco Control features a Harvard School of Public Health study that measured airborne nicotine contaminants in a Boston public housing building. Nicotine levels were found in nonsmoking units of the building, due to migrating secondhand smoke from units where smoking occurs. The study also concluded that questionnaire responses completed by residents can provide a valid estimate of residential exposure to tobacco smoke. See earlier section on scientific studies show need for smokfree housing in general, not only public housing.
Presentations on Smokefree Public Housing
Go to our library to review GASP's presentations on smokefree housing that we presented at various conferences, which include slides on public housing. In addition, the 2009 National Conference on Tobacco or Healths 2009 Smoke-Free Multi-Housing Ancillary Meeting shared resources and presentations for working in affordable and public housing.
2010 publication by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium Secondhand Smoke Seepage into Multi-Unit Affordable Housing. There are 3 sections to the document:
- Section I highlights the case for smokefree affordable housing.
- Section II provides information on prohibiting smoking in both public and HUD-assisted housing.
- Section III outlines steps to adopting a smokefree policy for affordable housing.
December 2009 news article about how the Boulder, CO Housing Authority is working towards a smokefree policy, following the county instituting a smoking ban for its low-income rental properties.
August 26, 2009 presentation on the applicability of the two HUD Notices, presented to the Texas Housing Association by Jim Bergman, Esq.back to top
Last update: 5/10/13