December 1, 2016

Creating Healthier Communities with Smoke-Free Public Housing

Over a year ago, Secretary Castro announced a proposed rule to make our nation’s public housing units smoke-free, with the support of public health leaders such as Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and the Centers for Disease Control, which concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Yesterday in Boston, Secretary Castro announced our final smoke-free rule that will require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to implement smoke-free policies in their developments. This effort will protect public housing residents from the harmful health and safety effects of lit tobacco inside apartments and in common areas.

Since 2009, HUD has strongly encouraged PHAs to adopt smoke-free policies in their buildings and common areas. In this time, more than 600 PHAs and tribally designed housing have adopted smoke-free policies. They have committed to making public housing communities safer and improving the health of children and families by reducing the spread of secondhand smoke.

Reducing Housing Costs

The health benefits of going Smoke Free are well known, but public housing communities that have gone smoke-free have also experienced cleaner units and significantly reduced unit turnover costs.

A survey of public and subsidized housing managers found that the additional cost of rehabilitating smoking units averaged $1,250 to $2,955 per unit, depending on the intensity of smoking. [1] HUD’s Regulatory Impact Analysis estimates annual nationwide savings between $16 and $38 million and these aren’t the only savings. A fire caused by a single dropped cigarette can result in significant damage. PHAs have discovered that going smoke free reduces the cost of fire damages and insurance coverage, which HUD estimates at $32 million annually. This frees up critical funding to house and support additional families with clean and safe accommodations.

Reducing Housing Costs

The health benefits of going Smoke Free are well known, but public housing communities that have gone smoke-free have also experienced cleaner units and significantly reduced unit turnover costs.

A survey of public and subsidized housing managers found that the additional cost of rehabilitating smoking units averaged $1,250 to $2,955 per unit, depending on the intensity of smoking. [1] HUD’s Regulatory Impact Analysis estimates annual nationwide savings between $16 and $38 million and these aren’t the only savings. A fire caused by a single dropped cigarette can result in significant damage. PHAs have discovered that going smoke free reduces the cost of fire damages and insurance coverage, which HUD estimates at $32 million annually. This frees up critical funding to house and support additional families with clean and safe accommodations.

Making Change Together

HUD is committed to garnering resources from national health and housing partners, such as the American Lung Association, Academy of American Pediatrics, and American Cancer Society, among others. This effort has also kindled new relationships with state and local level partners committed to working with local housing leaders to support the smoke free and cessation efforts.

Working together, we can make our communities healthier and safer for residents.

Lourdes Castro Ramírez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.

Footnotes:
1. Ntl. Ctr. For Healthy Hsg., “Reasons to Explore Smoke-Free Housing,” (Early Fall 2009), available at http://www.nchh.org/portals/0/contents/nchh_green_factsheet_smokefree.pdf.
2. Brian King et al., “National and State Cost Savings Associated with Prohibiting Smoking in Subsidized and Public Housing in the United States,” Preventing Chronic Disease (October 2014), available at http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/pdf/14_0222.pdf.

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