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Going Smoke-Free The deadline is here

What Residents think How PHAs are complying Policy & Implementation Tips Vaping on Property?

Also inside..

Retiring CEO created unique corporate culture at Navigate -Page 4

Issue No. 6 August 2018

Smoke-Free Public Housing BY CHARLES ROWE

"...each PHA must implement a “smoke-free” policy banning the use of prohibited tobacco products in all public housing living units, indoor common areas in public housing, and in PHA administrative office buildings. The smoke-free policy must also extend to all outdoor areas up to 25 feet from the public housing and administrative office buildings."


The smoke-free public housing mandate is now in effect. At first glance, some may think, “This is great! It discourages smoking within 25 feet of public housing and offices.” It is quite a bit more complicated than that. Some support the policy. Others have minor issues with it. Perhaps you, like some, are not confident in its enforcing powers. A few of your residents (and possibly staff) may see no reason for it.

“Many of the tenants have expressed that they have NO intention of stopping. They won’t.”                                                                        –Edith Alkire “HUD buildings in warm climates have the same rules as ones where it is freezing. Palm trees swaying, not icicles falling. This new rule was not well thought out as to regional conditions or the stamina of the elderly in HUD senior housing.”                                                      –Carolyn Martarano

Comments expressed online are proof. Take the comment section of the National Center for


“I do not know why I must go 25 feet from the building to smoke a cigarette.”                                                                        –Michael Eubanks “What good are house rules if they are not enforced?”                                                                                                              -Sandy

JOIN THE CONVO What have your residents said about the Smoke-Free Mandate? Let me know here:

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Housing Management (NCHM) website for example.


Many PHAs implemented this rule before the deadline. Some of those PHAs witnessed first-hand the complications and struggles that come with making these adjustments. 

Arkansas KAIT8 in Arkansas reports: “…the Poinsett County Housing Authority sent out 270 letters to residents explaining policy changes that would ban smoking in the units and affect some people’s rent.” Tenants expressed their concerns on social media. Interim Director of Poinsett County Housing Authority, David Lange responded, “Social media goes a little bit crazy at times, and as I told them tonight, I’m not the twoheaded monster that they’re hearing about, we’re here to help them and make nicer units.”


In Illinois, Linda Jones, the Morgan County Housing Authority Director, says they will work with their elderly and disabled residents, who are unable to easily access the new designated smoking areas. The PHA will allow these residents to request a reasonable accommodation. The agency will also allow more time for residents to take advantage of provided resources to break the habit.

Smoke-free money-saver


HUD's smoke-free policy could save PHAs millions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates a $153 million in savings for agencies nationwide. Renovations of smoking units: $43 million Smoking-related fire losses: $16 million Secondhand smoke-related health care expenditures: $94 million Fire damage/loss 10%

The Washington Informer reports “D.C. is now among the nation’s municipalities that bar public-housing residents from smoking within 25 feet of their homes.” Download every government resource linked in this issue from the companion site.

Renovation 28% Health care 61%

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Retiring Navigate CEO Eric Strong created a corporate culture unlike any other.

From donating $30-million to local housing projects and programs through the Housing Affordability Trust to more than a million to the National Affordable Housing Management Association's (NAHMA) Educational Foundation, Strong made sure Navigate's Vision was carried out, "..enriching every aspect of affordable housing." In honor of his contribution to numerous academic scholarships, Navigate's donations to NAHMA will now be called the Navigate Affordable Housing Partners Eric Q. Strong Scholarship Fund.  THE EXAMPLE His example created a culture of giving among the team. Each year, 100% of Navigate's employees donate a portion of their checks to the United Way. Strong also encouraged staffers to be active in the community. Some of them donate their time to local organizations like the Salvation Army, churches, sports teams, the Junior League and more.

THE MAN Navigate Eric Strong retired last month, after 27 years at the helm of Navigate Affordable Housing Partners. Strong truly cares about affordable and public housing, because that's where he grew up. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration from the 

University of Alabama. He has received many honors and awards for his work in affordable housing management and administration. In his role as CEO, Strong directed the non-profit's daily operations as PBCA in Alabama, Mississippi, Connecticut, and Virginia. He also spearheaded Navigate's expansion within the affordable housing sphere, including consulting and management.

There is trust and accountability, in an open work environment that is technologically advanced and looking forward to the future. We wish Eric well in his retirement. His legacy at Navigate is, well, Strong.

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Photo: Eric with his wife, Beverly.

THE CULTURE Aside from cultivating a culture of giving, Strong also advocated for employees to have time to take care of themselves and their families. Staff is allowed two health hours a week for doctor appointments or working out. There are flexible hours as well as the option of a four-day work week. The company also contributes 12% to the employees' 401(k).

Require existing tenants to transfer out of the property when it becomes smoke-free. Evict a resident for their first violation of the smoke-free policy. You can find the HUD Guidebook here.

What NOT to do by Ebony Hall

One PHA may respond with a policy that gives one verbal warning, charge a fine on the second offense and then evict on the third. Another may go directly from a warning to an eviction. HUD is very clear about things PHA staff must not do and offers the following tips in the Guidebook.

PHA staff must NOT: Deny occupancy to any individual who smokes. Ask at the time of application, move-in, or recertification whether the applicant, tenant, or any members of the household smoke. Maintain smoking- or nonsmoking-specific waiting lists. Charge a tenant a fee for smoke-free policy violations when no damage has occurred to the unit.

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Enforcing this new policy will not be easy for some agencies. As we have discussed, smokers will complain, and probably already have.




Maintenance Detectives Change air filters every month. One ED at an AARHA Conference in 2016  said if the tenant has been smoking, the screen will be a yellow color.  The crews write the resident’s name on it and wrap in a plastic bag.  The office then sends a verbal and written warning.

Thank Them HUD recommends you thank residents when you see them complying with the policy. "Publicly acknowledge tenants who are doing the right thing by highlighting them as Smoke-Free Heroes on posters and flyers."

Paper Trails

Offer Classes


Host cessation classes for your residents. Reach out to the local chapter of the American Lung Association or the local tobacco control program for more information.

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Have your lawyers make sure the policy is clear, and then get residents to sign off on it.


PRO TIPS Delegate Have your tenant organization recommend the new smoking policy. It allows them to educate fellow residents and also takes you out of the political equation.

Show them Measure the barriers around the buildings and make the residents aware of where they end. Build a smoking shelter so residents who smoke will have a place to go.

Take Pictures “A picture is worth a thousand words,” Chapel says. Allow the staff to take pictures of smoking paraphernalia.  For example, an ashtray in the home.

No Ifs, Ands or..

Remember Cigarettes are a luxury. There is no constitutional right to smoke. Also, consider the rights of non-smokers over the rights of smokers.

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Make the residents responsible for the butts.  Charge a cleanup fee for any butts found on the grounds around their unit.

To Vape or not to Vape That's a good question

HUD guidance on the Smoke-Free Policy defines prohibited tobacco products "as items that involve the ignition and burning of tobacco leaves, such as: cigarettes, cigars, pipes and water pipes (also known as hookahs)." The Department is leaving it up to PHAs to decide whether they will include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or vaping in their policies. "Research to date on ENDS is still developing and lacks clear consensus, in contrast with research on the effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products," the Final Rule states. "Unlike with products that involve burning of substances, there is little evidence that ENDS significantly increases fire risks, and there is no conclusive evidence that the vapors emitted by ENDS cause damage to the units themselves...  "..if evidence in the future arises that banning ENDS will, for example, result in significant maintenance savings, HUD will reconsider.."

Download every government resource linked in this issue from the companion site.


Going Smoke Free - Navigating Public Housing, August 2018