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.

The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium published in early 2014 a paper entitled, Subsidized Housing and Smokefree Policies: Overview of Subsidized Housing that discusses what is Section 8 housing, and smokefree policies in Section 8 housing.

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:

HUD issued a September 15, 2010 follow-up Notice PIH 2010-21 which clarified PIH-2009-21 and outlined new requirements when implementing smokefree policies for HUD housing.

On May 29, 2012 HUD reissued Notice PIH-2010-21 as PIH 2012-25 with reorganized but similar content and no expiration date, encouraging Public Housing Authorities to adopt smoke-free housing policies.

On October 26, 2012 HUD issued Notice H 2012-22 to further encourage owners and management agents to take steps to implement smoke-free housing policies not only for the buildings, but for the grounds which include entry ways, openings to the buildings (windows) and playground areas.

HUD Publications. HUD's June 19, 2012 press release describes their new toolkits for residents and owners/management agents. The toolkits are designed to support federally-assisted housing properties in their effort to implement smokefree policies. GASP is listed as a Housing and Legal Resource for technical assistance.

HUD created a separate Smokefree Policy Toolkits resource webpage that includes links to:

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 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:

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:

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). View the 2012 youtube video "Susie and Jerome Learn about a Healthy Home" produced by the Connecticut Department of Health, which teaches children about the NCHH's seven rules for a healthy home including eliminating dangerous chemicals in the home such as smoking and secondhand smoke.

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:

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

New 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.

The 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 author’s 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 Health’s 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:

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.

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Last update: 9/17/13