HUD smoke-free public housing now required

Prince Frederick, MD - As of Tuesday, July 31, all Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are required to have smoke-free policies in place.

In December of 2016 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a final rule outlining the timeline for the implementation of this rule. PHAs were supposed to begin implementing the policies outlined in the rule on February 3, 2017 and had 18 months to do so. According to the rule not only are the insides of PHAs’ required to be smoke free, but also “all outdoor areas within 25 feet of the housing and administrative office buildings.”

The department states within the rule that the intention of its implementation is “to improve indoor air quality in public housing; benefit the health of public housing residents, visitors and PHA staff; reduce the risk of catastrophic fires; and lower overall maintenance costs. The rule applies to “all public housing other than dwelling units in mixed-finance buildings.”

According to a November of 2016 press release, the rule “prohibits lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.” The rule also states that the use of waterpipes (hookahs) falls “under the definition of ‘prohibited tobacco product.’”

The Housing Authority of Calvert County is a PHA that owns and operates two buildings in Prince Frederick and one in Lusby. The Housing Authority began implementing smoke-free policies about two years ago and according to Executive Director Shawn Kingston, “most of the residents favored it.” He also stated that “within the first six months, we probably had issues, but other than that no. When anyone signs the lease, they come and they understand that we’re smoke-free.” In addition to minimal pushback from residents, Kingston mentioned that the policy has saved the Housing Authority “anywhere from $800 and $1,000 on turning over a unit.” This is due to the costs of putting in new carpet, re-painting, purchasing new curtains, and, sometimes even, replacing cabinets from the smoking units. reached out to the Housing Authorities of both St. Mary’s and Charles counties   but they had not responded as this story was being filed.

For more information on public housing in Maryland, visit this HUD site to view housing near you.

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