Smoke-free public housing … coming this summer to an authority near you

by Ballard Spahr LLP

House MazeThis summer, public housing authorities in Kansas City (MO), Cambridge (MA), Annapolis (MD), and Lakeland (FL) will become smoke-free, following a trend encouraged by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and already adopted by public housing authorities across the country in cities such as Boston, Detroit, Houston and San Antonio. In 2009 and 2012, HUD issued notices (PIH Notice 2009-21 and PIH Notice 2012-25) to public housing authorities outlining several reasons to adopt a smoke-free policy in public housing. HUD also offers a Smoke-Free Housing Tool Kit for authorities to facilitate implementation of a smoke-free initiative, available at Further, HUD provides information regarding smoking cessation resources that public housing authorities may make available to their residents. In the event a public housing authority adopts a non-smoking policy, HUD advises that such authorities should update their PHA plans with HUD and revise their lease agreements to include the non-smoking policy.

In April, Kansas City Housing Authority adopted a smoke-free policy that will ban smoking in all of its 1,700 residential public housing units as well as outdoor grounds on July 1, 2014. Residents may apply for a six-month extension for the implementation of the smoking ban in their units.

The Cambridge Housing Authority’s smoke-free policy, which was adopted last fall and will be enforced beginning in August 2014, prohibits smoking in public housing units. However, residents and visitors will be permitted to smoke outdoors at public housing developments. Additional public housing authorities in Massachusetts may join the smoke-free ranks soon, as officials are considering statewide guidelines that encourage all housing agencies to ban smoking.

Lakeland, Florida public housing residents will also soon be subject to a ban on smoking in their homes, pursuant to a rule adopted in 2013. Enforcement of the smoke-free policy in Lakeland is set to begin shortly. New residents and existing residents renewing their leases will have to sign a form promising not to smoke indoors.

The current smoking ban in public housing units is being extended to all public housing properties by the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis. Residents have not been permitted to smoke in their units since May 2011, but on April 14, 2014, the Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution expanding the ban to all properties.

Public housing residents report mixed views on smoke-free policies. Several news stories about the topic quote residents who are looking forward to the ban, mainly citing health reasons. However, other residents do not like the policy, and support policies that grandfather existing smokers who are tenants to be exempted from implementation of the smoking ban.

The HUD Notices cite several benefits of smoke-free public housing, including health benefits for non-smoking residents who are affected by secondary smoke, which may have a greater effect on elderly tenants and children; reduced chance of fires from cigarettes, which are the leading cause of fire deaths in multifamily buildings; and decreased maintenance costs from repairing public housing units that are vacated by smokers. These reasons are echoed by public housing authority executives as the incentives for adopting smoke-free policies.

Has your authority gone smoke-free? What benefits have you enjoyed since the implementation? What challenges did you face, and how were they addressed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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