In a November 2105 blog post, we discussed a proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would require each public housing agency (PHA) administering public housing to implement a smoke-free policy. The proposal stated that no later than 18 months from the effective date of the final rule, each PHA must implement a policy prohibiting lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas in public housing, and in PHA administrative office buildings (in brief, a smoke-free policy for all public housing indoor areas). In addition, the smoke-free policy must also extend to all outdoor areas up to 25 feet from the housing and administrative office buildings. HUD proposed the rule to improve indoor air quality in public housing, the benefits to the health of public housing residents and PHA staff, the potential reduction in the risk of catastrophic fires at public housing facilities and lower overall maintenance costs.
Despite its advantages, we were somewhat skeptical at the time about the end results of this proposal. Realizing the lure of nicotine and the reluctance of public housing resident to change existing habits, we felt that making all living units smoke-free could prove quite challenging, and that confrontations between residents and PHA directors could be forthcoming.
Be that as it may, HUD has now issued guidance to PHAs and other housing representatives on implementing and enforcing the smoke-free public housing policy. HUD advises PHAs to begin the process of implementing smoke-free policies “as soon as possible,” and “strongly encourages” PHAs to work with resident councils, provide residents with information on cessation assistance and distribute information to residents about the smoke-free policy.
The guidance adds that PHAs obtain board approval when creating their individual smoke-free policies and document those policies. They also should determine whether adopting their smoke-free policies constitutes a significant amendment to their PHA plan, and if so, they must conduct public hearings according to standard amendment procedures. PHAs also are encouraged to post signs that reference the new smoke-free policy. The costs of implementing the smoke-free policies may be covered through operating reserves and eligible capital fund activities, according to the guidance.
The guidance also addresses a range of enforcement actions, possible waivers and a list of smoking cessation resources for PHAs to contact. Again, some PHAs may have more of a fight on their hands than others in attempting to implement this new requirement. We wish them the best and hope that they fully read the HUD guidance as they implement their policies.
Let us know how you feel about the smoke-free PHA requirement. We’d love to hear from you.