Housing commission continues non-smoking conversion

The Manistee Housing Commission board met in August 2013 to discuss an upcoming visit by the Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding a recovery agreement between the two agencies.

The Manistee Housing Commission board will meet in July to vote on a new non-smoking policy for all tenants. (file photo)

MANISTEE — At its meeting in July, the Manistee Housing Commission will likely vote to adopt a new non-smoking policy for all of its facilities.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, all MHC grounds, common spaces, tenant units, vehicles, equipments, parking lots, general areas and properties will be mandated smoke-free, as outlined in the commission’s draft policy.

All residents, guests and employees will be subject to the agreement. As a term of continued employment, current employees shall sign a compliance agreement with the smoke free policy.

“I think it’s a straightforward document that meets, not just the needs, but the desires of our residents, in addition to meeting what (the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development) wanted us to do,” said Clinton McKinven-Copus, MHC director. “After a (resident feedback) survey, it switched from being a HUD mandate to, really a majority of people here want that.”

The purpose of the policy is to reduce and mitigate the health effects of secondhand smoke, reduce the risk of fire and to reduce overall maintenance costs.

To attain resident views on the policy, MHC sent out surveys, and received 50 percent of them back. Of the 107 responders, 53 wanted their units to be smoke free, 36 didn’t and 18 reported no preference. At Harbor View, 23 of 34 responders wanted a smoke free facility, while 21 of 51 Century Terrace responders wanted a smoke free facility.

“I was very pleased with the number of people who responded,” said MHC director Clinton McKinven-Copus. “I felt like we got a good respondent level. It was good to have affirmation that over all of our properties, the general consensus, more than half, want our properties to be smoke free.”

Individuals and families taking a lease on or after Jan. 1, 2015, shall be required to sign a lease incorporating the smoke free requirements. There will be no designated areas for smoking by residents, guests, employees and others.

“The term ‘smoking’ means inhaling, burning, carrying or possessing any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, other tobacco product, marijuana cigarette, marijuana blunt or other lighted smoking device for burning tobacco or any other substances,” the policy states. “In all cases, the CMHC shall take the broadest and most expansive definition of what constitutes smoking.”

Additionally, the MHC had two public meetings with residents to discuss the issue.

“What I found really positive in those meetings is that some of the non-smoking residents who have health problems that are caused by secondhand smoke — like asthma or COPD — were saying to the residents that are smokers ‘Hey, I’m here to help you. If you want to have someone to cook you something savory to get your mind off of it, or if you just need to come scream at somebody because you’re dying for a cigarette. I’m here.'”

McKinven-Copus said he has heard some negative feelings toward the new policy, but added that many of the negative feedback is related to residents’ concern for their inability to give up smoking. However, some comments in the survey were not favorable to the policy.

“If we go smoke free, I’ll be moving out,” one tenant said.

“It’s not fair to prohibit smoking in my apartment, which is my home,” another said.

Signs noting the policy will be posted around MHC facilities.

The MHC will use a preponderance of evidence in cases to determine if the policy has been violated. It shall enforce resident failure to adhere with the policy by lease termination.

MHC board members and general council are reviewing the draft policy and any edits will be incorporated to the document, which will be presented for final adoption at the commission’s July 22 meeting.

Timeline of non-smoking conversion at MHC facilities:

July 22 — Policy adoption at Manistee Housing Commission meeting

Fall — Adoption of updated tenant lease

Fall — Adoption of updated admissions and continued occupancy policy

Nov. 10 to Dec. 12 — Tenant signing of lease amendment

2015 — Tenant signing of new leases

Sample of survey feedback for non-smoking policy:

• It’s not fair to prohibit smoking in my apartment, which is my home.

• The building needs to be smoke free.

• More rights taken away.

• We should have been smoke free years ago.

• Smoke in the hall affects my breathing quickly.

• If we go smoke free, I’ll be moving out.

• Thank you. It (smoke free) will be a great benefit for us.

• We are disabled. Smoking outside our units would be hazardous to our health.

• I worry about smoking. I’m on oxygen and I have COPD.

• I have health problems. Smoke in the hallway bothers me.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky