The Federal Government Just Banned Smoking In Public Housing Across The Nation

The Housing And Urban Development (HUD) Department has banned smoking in public housing beginning early 2017.

Life  just got a little more interesting for residents  who smoke and live in public housing  in  the United States. Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently revealed HUD has banned smoking in public housing beginning in February 2017.  The ban will affect all apartments, indoor common areas, administrative buildings and areas up to 25 feet from all public housing buildings.

The new rule, banning smoking on all public housing property will affect over a million households nationwide.  Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs (or water pipes) will now  be  banned from  apartments and all areas within 25 feet of public housing. However, electronic cigarettes are not on the prohibited list, as the real concern, according to HUD officials, is second-hand smoke and limiting fire incidents. The department estimates that the ban “will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in repairs and preventable fires, including $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fire losses.”

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke,” says a written statement released by the  Housing and Urban Development.  “HUD’s smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities. By working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all of our families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires.”

At this point, the smoking ban only applies to public housing complexes and  administrative buildings. This  may be a relief to residents who live in other HUD assisted housing such as section  8 and  voucher program homes.

Though the rule, announced this week, goes into effect 60 days, public housing  officials in every state have 18 months to fully implement the rule. While these  new rules  will affect low-income residents in every community, it will hit New York the  hardest. New York has approximately 400,000 residents living in  178,000 state controlled units. Nationwide, HUD claims that there are 760,000 children living in public housing. The reduction  of  second-hand  smoke in their  buildings  can impact their lives and health greatly.

Many residents are unhappy with the rule and see it as a form of punishment. Some others feel the residents have no right to complain. After all, they are living in  public  housing, partially paid for by the federal government. Some residents in  public housing indeed  pay a price comparative to that  of others in the  community, many in the public  housing  pay very little rent at all.

It has been argued that someone living in  public housing, on government assistance, shouldn’t even be allowed to spend their money on  tobacco products. This new rule, with the government now deciding what residents can and  can not  do in the privacy  of their own may  be just a gateway to the overbearing government rule to come.

More than a few people  have rightfully questioned how HUD will enforce this rule and  exactly what means of monitoring the residents smoking will be implemented. The  greatest fear, having officers roaming the building, or random knocks at the door for inspections, which  now have to be forewarned.

“The last thing that we want are evictions,” Castro told reporters, according to the Times. “We don’t see this as a policy that is meant to end in a whole lot of evictions. We’re confident that public housing authority staff can work with residents so that that can be avoided.”

While the federal agency has no problem making a sweeping rule, it has taken a step back in enforcing it. HUD has left it up to  each state’s public housing authorities to use “lease enforcement actions” to enforce the rule. HUD did however,  suggest “a graduated enforcement approach that includes escalating warnings with documentation to the tenant file.”

Myself, I think whether the renter  pays $1,000 in rent of $1.00 in rent is irrelevant. Contracts are just that. These renters moved into buildings where smoking was not permitted in common areas, unaware that the government would later change the rule. Sadly, many  are reminded of a time when they lived at home under their parents roof. A time when they had to obey the rules to avoid being kicked out. Public, low-income housing is all many of these families and residents can afford. It’s not as if they  can or will just up and move.

The reason people  get jobs and move out of their parents home into their own, is freedom. The freedom to live as they please. In America, freedom is being redefined daily. The boundaries between the government and ourselves shrinking all the while.

To view the new mandate on smoking in public housing check out this pdf file.

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