When I first arrived in Portland last fall, I blogged about the extreme anti-smoking policies in area apartments, which often extend even to the outdoor parts of properties. The Portland Tribune has picked up on the excess of residential smoking bans, noting that they’ve become so pervasive that they hamper efforts to get the homeless placed into public housing:
A year ago, Guardian Management, the largest manager of private apartments in Portland, made its nearly 70 buildings containing about 6,000 apartments smoke-free. Tenants cannot smoke in their apartments, and they cannot smoke in the hallways.
Last month, the Housing Authority of Portland began sending out notices to tenants announcing all its buildings, containing more than 6,200 apartments, will be going smoke-free. Tenants who need to smoke will have to make their way outside buildings to designated smoking areas, rain or shine. […]
Andy Miller, interim executive director of Portland’s Bureau of Housing and Community Development, is, like Weinstock, worried about what the new rules do to the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.
For the last four years, the city’s plan has focused on what it calls a “housing first” philosophy. The policy has meant that rather than insist the homeless conform to good tenant behavior before they can stay in subsidized housing, housing is used to stabilize their lives so they can then address problems such as substance abuse.
Many of the homeless – having battled drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness – smoke. The city wants those people housed.
“The last thing we want to do is create barriers to people entering affordable housing,” Miller says.
Miller would like to see the housing authority consider continuing to allow smoking in some of its buildings, or in parts of some buildings.
While I vehemently oppose legislative bans on smoking in apartments, there are good reasons why some buildings might want to privately impose smokefree policies. Smokers’ apartments cost more to clean when a tenant moves out, other residents might complain about the smell, and smoking creates a fire hazard. The trend threatens to get out of hand, however. In my own building, for example, smoking is forbidden indoors, on balconies, and even in the large open air courtyard. My cigarette smoking guests have to walk down a long hallway, take an elevator down four flights, and stand outside next to a busy street just to light up. People who’d like to take a longer smoke with a pipe or cigar are completely out of luck.
Many of these bans have gone beyond all rational justification to become simple discrimination against unpopular smokers and it’s likely that more cities will follow suit. Smokers and tolerant allies will need to be prepared to speak out against their spread.