Auburn Housing Authority votes to ban smoking in tenants’ apartments

By Charley Hannagan, July 07, 2014

Auburn, NY — The Auburn Housing Authority has voted to go smokeless, and it’s not alone.

Authority commissioners voted Monday 6-1 to ban smoking at Melone Village and Olympia Terrace, two public housing complexes that have 238 apartments. The authority’s other housing complex, Brogan Manor, is going smokeless gradually during a renovation of its 88 units.

Auburn isn’t the only Upstate city with smokeless public housing. Rochester has already done so, and the Syracuse Housing Authority voted two months ago to go smokeless in its 2,600 units within a year, said Syracuse Housing Authority Executive Director Bill Simmons.

Beginning Sept. 1, Auburn Housing Authority tenants will not be allowed to have lighted cigars, cigarettes or other tobacco products, or a similar lighted product in their apartments. Tenants will be allowed to smoke on their porches.

People who continue to smoke in their homes will be warned that they have violated their lease and could eventually be evicted from their apartment after a lengthy process, said Stephanie Hutchinson, the housing authority’s executive director.

“It’s not easy to remove someone from public housing,” she said.

Some 57 percent of the tenants who participated in a survey in the spring said that they believed a smoking ban was a good idea, Hutchinson said.

The housing authority noted that it wanted the ban because of the effects of second-hand smoke, the increased maintenance costs associated with smoking, increased risk of fire, and the higher cost of fire insurance for a building where smoking is allowed.

Four tenants attended Monday’s meeting. Two who spoke opposed the ban.

“To me people ought to have the right to do what they want to,” said tenant Joan Monroe.

Smoke from barbecue grills comes in through her apartment windows more often than cigarette smoke, she said. “Are you going to stop the grills too?”

Tenant representative Cynthia Humphrey, who doesn’t smoke, was the only member to vote against the ban. “It’s your business that you smoke,” she said.

Humphrey said she’d rather have people smoking in their own homes, where the smoke is contained, than outside where others are subjected to it.

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