Eastern Pa. city housing authority bans smoking

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Residents of public housing in one eastern Pennsylvania city will have to light up outside beginning this week as a smoking ban goes into effect, only the second such ban by a public housing authority in the commonwealth.

The Allentown Housing Authority's ban, which applies to all of its more than 1,200 housing units and common areas, doesn't bar residents from smoking but requires that they do so at least 10 feet from an entrance at all authority buildings.

Daniel Farrell, authority executive director, told reporters Tuesday that he believed the ban would be "a win for everyone."

"This will create a better environment because it will eliminate the problem of secondhand smoke and it will make our buildings safer in respect to fire hazards," he said, according to The (Allentown) Morning Call. "It also saves the authority money on rehabbing the units when someone leaves."

Not everyone, however, has been won over by the idea.

"I pay rent. How you going to tell me what I can do in my own place?" said Marx Corredor, 35, whose fiancée lives in the Little Lehigh housing development, as he took another draw of his cigarette in the parking lot. "It feels like jail."

An authority survey indicates that 37 percent of residents in the housing units are smokers.

Under the policy, smoking is forbidden inside apartments or even in common areas such as a community room or cafeteria. Every resident must sign an addendum to his or her lease agreeing to comply or face eviction. Visitors and staff members are also covered by the ban.

Five years after a Maine housing authority first banned smoking in 2004, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suggested that local authorities adopt similar policies. In September, the Pittsburgh Housing Authority became the first in Pennsylvania to do so, and the York Housing Authority is proposing such a policy.

The policy gives residents a verbal warning, with a written warning to follow a third offense and a termination notice after the fourth offense, but with an option to appeal. If a fifth violation occurs, the lease will be terminated. No fines are assessed.

Bethlehem Housing Authority officials said they would consider an indoor smoking ban this summer, but Mark Iampietro, deputy executive director, said enforcing such a policy "is not easy."

"What are we going to do? Walk around sniffing in people's apartments?" he asked.

Farrell said residents would likely report each other, and a warning could be issued if a staff member sees someone smoking.

Authority board member John Sherry, who lives in the Central Park high-rise, said he voted for the ban for foresees opposition.

"I'd say 95 percent of the people in my building are all for it," Sherry said. "But the other 5 percent are going to fight like heck."


Information from: The Morning Call, http://www.mcall.com

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