Housing commission buildings to be non-smoking

MANISTEE — Next month, Manistee Housing Commission officials will begin the process of converting its facilities to smoke-free.

The move is required of all housing commissions in the nation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We operate under the regulations of the U.S. HUD,” said MHC executive director Clinton McKinven-Copus. “We are here to enforce the regulations and follow the policies. We have no authority over making the regulations.”

The commission board will meet on Feb. 11 for a work session to discuss the rollout and implementation of the policy. The conversion will affect all 214 of the MHC’s properties, including Harbor View, Century Terrace and scattered sites.

At its meeting on Tuesday, MHC board members discussed the cost savings impact of the transfer to no smoking. MHC president Dale Priester estimated that it was roughly $1,000 more to renovate a smoking apartment when the tenant moves out versus a non-smoking unit.

“For us, with 214 units, it’s an expense,” said MHC board member Doug Parkes. “But if you imagine some place like Detroit, Chicago or Houston, where there’s thousands upon thousands of units, the cost of cleaning and changing (is high).”

At the meeting, tenants asked the board how the policy would be enforced. Parkes said that it would probably be maintenance crews noticing the smoke, rather than constant supervision.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be sitting under a window or waiting for a door to open to see if there’s smoke,” he said. “In this type of community here (Harbor View) and in Century Terrace, it’s probably going to be fairly obvious. In the houses, probably not so much as far as obvious, but eventually it will get around. And it will have to be dealt with.”

Public hearings will be held before the new policy is adopted. Residents will be able to voice their opinions as the process continues.

“Where are we supposed to go,” said Harbor View resident Jean Bialik. “There’s no places here.”

Also at its meeting, the MHC board terminated a memorandum of understanding with the Port City Resident Council because the resident body has stopped providing financial information to MHC as required by HUD.

“Because of the status of the (group) not functioning and (that) we have not really received formal reports for at least 18 months, we need to protect the (MHC) and no longer recognize them as a functioning body until we have proof that there’s no malfeasance and that there’s ability to operate,” McKinven-Copus said.

Board members Priester and Parkes expressed hope that the group would re-organize and begin functioning again.

“This is not to say that we can’t go back and reinstate them,” Priester said. “I’d like to see it.”

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