KHA smoke-free housing is a success

By Gina Lazara
December 29, 2014,

KENNEWICK, Wash. — KEPR is following up on the decision to ban smoking in all units run by the Kennewick Housing Authority. Four years later, the agency says there’s been a taxpayer savings. KEPR learned where the surplus is going.

Cassandra Kirkum knows the effects her smoking could have on her kids.

“When you’re a smoker…2nd hand smoke and 3rd hand smoke is a major cause of cancer in little children,” said Kirkum.

Cassandra and her family live in an apartment run by the Kennewick Housing Authority. She signed this form when she moved in, promising she wouldn’t smoke inside her home.

“My initial thought was that we could walk to the street right here as long as you’re not on the curb or in front of your door. But come to find out you have to go all the way to the end of the block to smoke,” she said.

The designated smoking area was built right after the policy went into effect in 2011 and the director says the residents are taking full advantage of it.

Executive Director Lona Hammer says there’s been multiple benefits to the ban. Turning over a unit to a new renter usually costs about $400. But when the unit was smoked in, it cost an extra thousand.

“We really worry about smoking within the unit. These are public dollars,” said Hammer.

Nicotine would hang on the walls, requiring repainting at 25 bucks a gallon. Maintenance workers make 19 bucks an hour. It could take up to 20 hours to clean a smoker’s apartment. These costs add up quickly across hundreds of units. The savings from not having to spend as much on a turnover can be put to far better use. The KHA has been able to establish a youth scholarship program and now plans on hiring a service coordinator the senior building to help people with healthcare and other issues.

“Some of that directly comes from us being able to save money in other places,” said Hammer.

If someone is caught smoking they are given a lease violation. If you get enough of those, you can be kicked out of the KHA unit.

Kennewick Housing Authority is breaking ground on new units near WinCo in a couple months. There is already a 500 person waiting list.

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