Westmoreland County Housing Authority passes smoking ban
Nearly 5,000 Westmoreland County Housing Authority tenants have until next summer to be smoke-free or risk being evicted.
Authority board members on Tuesday unanimously approved an agencywide smoking ban that bars residents from smoking in their publicly subsidized homes.
Smoking in public and common areas of housing authority properties has been outlawed since 2003.
“By no means can we become the smoke police, but we want to have a nice place for tenants to live,” said Michael Washowich, the authority’s executive director.
The housing authority has worked for the last year to formulate a smoking ban on the heels of a federal requirement issued in late 2016 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that mandated public housing units to be smoke-free.
Westmoreland’s ban prohibits all cigarettes, pipes, cigars, water pipes, e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
The ban includes all 2,500 housing units throughout the authority.
Residents will be given four warnings before eviction proceedings can be brought, according to authority Solicitor Gene Ferace.
But officials conceded they aren’t sure just how enforcement of the new policy will be enacted.
“We’ll do our due diligence to try to enforce it, but where it goes from here, we’ll see,” Ferace said.
Starting in July, the authority will begin asking residents to sign lease amendments acknowledging the smoking ban.
Enforcement cannot begin until all leases are updated, a process that is expected to be completed by the end of June 2018.
Over the next year, tenants will be encouraged to start smoking cessation classes that the authority will offer at each of its buildings through the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Washowich said there are no estimates as to the number of smokers who live in authority housing, but said he believes the number is “significant.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]