Wednesday, 13 February 2019

OPINION | The Unintended Consequences of Smoke-Free Public Housing

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The policies can go a long way toward improving tenants' health, but they needn't result in evictions.

With temperatures in parts of the country threatening to hit record lows this winter, it's hard to imagine not having a safe, affordable place to live. But a rule prohibiting indoor smoking in public housing could result in evictions for tenants who break the rule repeatedly -- literally leaving them out in the cold. Last year, Jim Armstrong, a policy analyst for the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, predicted that evictions for smoking violations would likely start around now.

Smoke-free housing has tremendous potential to improve health by ensuring that tenants have cleaner air to breathe and to enhance their safety by reducing fires. But, somewhat ironically, this potential will not be fully realized if residents are evicted for smoking.

Safety and stability are both essential elements of a healthy home. A safe, stable, affordable home is a critical foundation for good health and well-being. Stability not only provides families with consistent, predictable access to schools, jobs and social connections but also with the ability to plan beyond tomorrow. Conversely, housing instability creates disruption and anxiety for families and their children. Evictions can result in disruptions of work, school, support networks of families and friends, and health and other services.

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