Smokers receiving public housing assistance could soon lose their homes if they don’t go outside to light up.
A federal mandate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires all Public Housing Agencies to have smoke-free policies by July 31. The Raleigh Housing Authority imposed its policy on May 1.
It is a four strikes and your out system that relies on staff and neighbors to report the smell of smoke. The first two violations come with written warnings, which include information packets about quitting smoking. A third violation calls for a conference with the property manager and a possible fine.
People caught a fourth time smoking inside or within 25 feet of the building face a termination of their lease agreement and eviction.
“The goal of this was not to terminate and have someone lose their housing,” RHA’s Sonia Anderson said. “For us, like any lease termination, it’s a progressive process. At this point in time, we have not seen that yet.”
The RHA said the purpose of the policy is provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing. Anderson said it will protect non-smokers by shielding them from second-hand smoke, and protect all residents by preventing smoking-related fires. There are also additional costs associated with building maintenance for turning over a smoking unit to a new tenant.
Some of the residents at Glenwood Towers, the RHA’s largest community with 288 units, said there are a lot of smokers inside the complex. Signs posted at the main entrances warn of the new policy which prohibits all smoking, including electronic cigarettes, within 25 feet of the building.
Garland Honeycutt leaves his apartment several times a day to sit on the curb outside Glenwood Towers. He said he has no issues with the policy, and views it as an additional requirement for him to maintain his status as a tenant.
“It’s a good thing. That way, people on oxygen tanks and things to breathe, they can be over there, we can be over, it’s cool,” Honeycutt said. “Rules are rules, and if that’s what you’ve got to do to live here, it’s cool.”
There were some public forums to inform residents about the rules and seek feedback. Anderson said the non-smokers were a little bit louder, but some smokers met with them in private to express complaints. She said the people who smoked the longest were the most concerned.
“They wanted to know how could their housing be taken away because of something they’ve always done. They saw it as something they did when they moved in and now something has changed,” she said.
“We’re not telling you that you can’t smoke. We’re just going to tell you where you can smoke.”
All housing agencies which receive federal funding from HUD have to follow regulations and standards for housing quality. For more information on the federal requirement, visit HUD’s website.