The rule, which is projected to save states $150 million a year, went into effect this summer.

by | September 26, 2018

SPEED READ:

  • A new no-smoking-in-public-housing rule took effect July 31.
  • It is supposed to save states $150 million a year in health and renovation costs.
  • Elderly residents, who are more likely to lack mobility and to have smoked for a longer period of time, are slowest to adjust.
  • Evictions for smoking violations are rare but could start at the end of the year.

SPEED READ:

  • A new no-smoking-in-public-housing rule took effect July 31.
  • It is supposed to save states $150 million a year in health and renovation costs.
  • Elderly residents, who are more likely to lack mobility and to have smoked for a longer period of time, are slowest to adjust.
  • Evictions for smoking violations are rare but could start at the end of the year.

The 2 million people living in public housing have a new rule to follow: no smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars or vapes within 25 feet of their building.

When the Obama administration first proposed the rule, more than 600 agencies out of 3,300 had already made public housing units smoke-free. But there is one population that public housing directors say has been slow to adjust to the rule: elderly residents, who are more likely to lack mobility and to have smoked for a longer period of time.

“It’s a big shift. It’s a change in their environment. When you’re used to a routine, change takes time,” says Lakeesha James-Smith, elder services coordinator for the Bloomington Housing Authority in Bloomington, Ill.

If residents are caught breaking the rule, there are a number of steps before a tenant could get evicted: a three-strike warning, a 30-day “remedy period” in which the landlord and tenant try to work out the disagreement and then a “grievance period” for a tenant to appeal an upcoming eviction. There are unlikely to be evictions for smoking violations until the end of the year, according to Jim Armstrong, policy analyst for the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association. In the meantime, housing authorities have been issuing warnings.

Donald Cameron, director of the Charleston Housing Authority in South Carolina, has been educating residents about the rule and says he won’t evict anyone over it. But he worries that others will.

“We’re going to get to a point when somebody is going to decide to vigorously enforce this, and there will be evictions,” he says. “Magistrates at the local level will then have to consider if it was a serious enough lease violation. Nine out of 10 times a case like that will be with an elderly person.”

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