HUD mandates smoke-free public housing
3/10/2017 10:59:46 AM

By Lisa Vercauteren, Vice President of Housing Programs

Smoke-free housing is not a new concept for HUD. Over the last decade or so, HUD has encouraged both public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners to establish smoke-free communities and has even issued a 63-page toolkit to aid in the process. So what is different now? With its Final Rule published last month, HUD is mandating for the first time that public housing authorities go smoke-free to "improve indoor air quality, benefit the health of public housing residents and PHA staff, reduce the risk of fires, and lower overall maintenance costs."

No later than Aug. 3, 2018, all public housing communities must implement a policy that bars the use of prohibited tobacco products in all public housing units, interior common areas, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing and administrative office buildings. Prohibited tobacco products are defined as items that involve the ignition and burning of tobacco leaves, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and water pipes (also known as hookahs).

It is important to understand that HUD is not prohibiting residents from smoking, and admission cannot be denied to applicants solely because they smoke, but any resident, guest, employee, or vendor will no longer be allowed to smoke in or within 25 feet of public housing buildings.

In the Final Rule, HUD declined to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) on the list of prohibited items, stating that "there is little evidence that ENDS significantly increase fire risks, and there is no conclusive evidence that the vapors emitted by ENDS cause damage to the units themselves." However, HUD has given PHAs the flexibility to include ENDS on the list of prohibited tobacco products.

It is important to start the process of going smoke-free immediately as certain steps are required before implementing the new policy.

PHAs must:

  • Create their smoke-free policy and obtain board approval;
  • update the PHA plan (if adding the smoke-free language constitutes as a "significant amendment" to the plan, the PHA is required to hold public meetings);
  • create a lease amendment that details the smoke-free policy and establishes the location of any designated smoking areas; and
  • provide 60-day notice of the lease amendment to each resident household.

For more information:

PIH Notice 2017-03
Final Rule: Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing

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