Housing Authority to implement smoking ban

By Brooke Shinberg

Smokers living in Housing Authority apartments will have to change their habits by June 2014 as a smoking ban will take effect that month.

“We are not telling anyone that they need to quit smoking,” said Michelle Perkins, executive director for the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb. Perkins said the Housing Authority will put some optional programs into place to help residents quit smoking to accommodate the ban. The ban is for the health of the residents and the value of the properties, Perkins said.

“It further enhances the quality of living,” Perkins said. “Since this ban has been passed, quite a few residents have thanked us.”

According to Fire Chief Eric Hicks, in 2012 there were nine fires caused by smoking materials in DeKalb. The overall loss from smoking related fires was estimated to be $68,000, according to Hicks.

“Housing Authority is charged with keeping the housing we have intact,” Perkins said.

The ban will also keep the cost of flipping the lot for a new resident down, Perkins said.

A resident caught smoking will receive a lease violation and after a certain number of violations, the resident will be given 30 days to move out.

“This ban isn’t intended to evict anyone,” Perkins said.

Hicks said the housing authority is being proactive to make its properties and residents safe, and said the ban does not affect most residents in DeKalb.

“This is a ban for Housing Authority properties only,” Hicks said. “The city of DeKalb does not have a ban on smoking in apartments.”

Second ward alderman Tom Teresinski said the ban is a good idea, but a ban on smoking in non-housing authority maintained apartments would be unlikely.

“What you do in your own house is up to you,” Teresinski said. “Their decision does make for an overall better environment in housing.”

The city does have a similar ban on smoking in effect for general public areas, including bars, Teresinski said.

The decision to enact this ban came from a notice from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a federal organization in charge of housing legislation and ordinances, Perkins said.

“We assumed it was a matter of time before HUD mandates it statewide,” Perkins said. “It’s really just the right thing to do.”