HUD bans smoking in US public housing units

Dive Brief:

  • Public housing units nationwide will become smoking-free zones under a federal rule issued Wednesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, The New York Times reported.

  • The rule will go into effect in early 2017 and is set to impact more than 1.2 million households. Public housing agencies have 18 months to implement the measure, which covers individual units, indoor common areas, PHA administrative offices and all outdoor areas up to 25 feet away from PHA residential and office buildings.

  • It is intended to save public housing agencies $153 million annually in repairs and fire-related expenses, according to HUD, which noted that it has been encouraging similar policies since 2009. One-quarter of PHA units have such rules in place, according to NPR.

Dive Insight:

HUD’s public-housing smoking ban comes as part of the government’s long-term plan to limit people’s exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and promote cleaner environments in public residential, institutional and government buildings. But questions remain over how it will be enforced, with HUD recommending that public housing authorities use what it calls "lease enforcement actions.”

The government is increasingly taking the lead in pushing for cleaner and more environmentally friendly public buildings.

A recent survey found that government buildings cut their energy consumption per square foot by 23% between 2003 and 2012. This compares with commercial buildings that reduced their energy consumption footprint by 12% during the same period.

President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which was initially set at $787 billion, reserved $4.5 billion to make 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient. This included proposed measures such as installing energy-collecting roofs and intelligent lighting systems. It also included smaller measures like fitting more energy efficient windows, LED lighting in parking garages and dual flush toilets.

The Canadian government has gone a step further and announced earlier this month that it plans to power all its buildings with renewable energy by 2025. It forms part of the government’s wider proposal to slash its own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 to 2030.

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Top image credit: flickr: Valentin Ottone