U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro came to Washington Beech on Nov. 30 to announce a no-smoking rule at federally funded public housing across the country, to be implemented over the next 18 months.
“Every child deserves to grow up in safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke,” the secretary said.
Secretary Castro made the announcement at Washington Beech in Roslindale, because it had won an award in 2011 as Boston Housing Authority’s first smoke-free development. Boston Housing soon implemented the rule across its portfolio, the first in the nation to do so.
Since 2009, the agency has encouraged non-smoking rules, a HUD press release states, so there are already 228,000 smoke-free public housing units. The new rule will create 940,000 smoke-free units, which include 500,000 with senior residents and 760,000 units with children.
“It is a great honor for Washington Beech,” said CEO Kate Franco after the event, remarking on the number of security personnel who accompanied the secretary to Roslindale, a sad necessity in these turbulent times.
Meena Carr, president of the Washington Beech Resident Board, also spoke at the event, noting that her grandson at 5 years old had developed asthma despite lack of family history or other known triggers. She asked Boston Housing and Trinity Financial to institute a smoking prohibition for the redeveloped property, she said.
“They thought they would be challenged legally, but it didn’t happened,” she continued. “My grandson is free of asthma and he is living proof that living in a smoke-free environment” is good for one’s health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the deaths of some 480,000 people each year from smoking earn it first place among preventable causes. Smoking is the main cause of deaths by fire in multi-family residences as well. Public Housing agencies will save about $153 million a year in health care costs, repairs and renovations due to second-hand smoke and fire damage.
The regulations will ban smoking in residences and offices, common areas and grounds within 25 feet of the developments. At this time, Boston Housing bans within 15 feet outside, so it will have to revise its rules to the more stringent federal standard.
Boston Housing Authority Deputy Administrator noted that there have been no evictions to date due to the non-smoking policy.
“We have a stepped enforcement procedure that on paper can result in fines and eventually, but we’ve never gotten that far,” she said.
Washington Beech Property Manager Tasha Davis said: “We continue to work with the community and strive to create a healthy environment.”
Director of Public Housing Deirdre Wyman and Director of Resident Services Lisa Morishanti will organize training for Trinity Financial-owned sites that have public housing funds, with the expectation that all will be smoke-free by the end of 2018.
HUD promises resources and support in implementation of the rule.