Put Down Those Butts
The Houston Housing Authority made a bold move this week, implementing a smoke-free policy at its 25 public housing and tax credit properties. (So that's why our friends haven't been answering our smoke signal messages.) Will the private sector follow suit?
The policy is part of the City’s Community Transformation Initiative, and bans smoking within the units, in common areas like the leasing office, and within 25 feet of main entryways. It impacts 5,500 families living in HHA communities and will be enforced March 1. HHA CEO Tory Gunsolley (at the podium with HHA vice chair Assata-Nicole Richards, chair Lance Gilliam, Health and Human Services director Stephen Williams, and Mayor Annise Parker on Monday) says the decision is health-driven and is mainly geared to protecting non-smokers, especially children, from secondhand and third-hand (odors left in carpets, etc.) smoke.
The Houston Apartment Association’s Aimee Arrington tells us non-smoking is a trend in other cities. Here, she knows of a couple of local properties—especially new developments—that have banned it entirely. (And many who don’t have a full ban only allow smoking outside.) Many of those owners have discussed the financial aspect: prohibiting smoking lowers turnover costs and insurance rates. There’s also a significant incentive for the other kind of green—she’s heard you almost have to go smoke-free to earn LEED cert. Here's the HAA team on Halloween--Aimee's in the middle of the group dressed like Wrecking Ball. (She was pregnant and her belly even had a little Miley Cyrus perched on it.)
McCue Road Properties owner Jeffrey Levin hasn’t allowed in-unit smoking in Marquee Uptown or Carriage Square in 18 months. But just two weeks ago, he expanded that to forbid smoking anywhere within the property line. It’s mainly a safety issue, he tells us. Since he forbade smoking in units, residents often lit up in the podium-style parking, and an errant butt scorched the carport and bottom floors of his units. Property manager Vesta partner Suan Tinsley tells us the residents have been overwhelmingly positive. (Only one of 98 residents voiced a concern, and most were enthused.) Jeffrey attributes that to the tiered approach to banning it.
But Suan tells us plenty of owners aren’t hopping on the train just yet. Many don’t want to alienate smokers and are hesitant to add one more thing to police on their properties. And she says fully monitoring smoking property-wide could be quite a challenge. (Bring on the cigarette dogs.)