Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is it fair to ban smoking in affordable housing?

With due respect to @NLIHC, it's a little troubling, this notion of making affordable housing conditional on tenants' giving up smoking. Which seems to be the intent of this recommendation sheet from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. They say:
"It is also important to help affordable housing providers understand that smoke-free housing policies are legal, do not unlawfully discriminate against tenants who smoke, and do not violate renters' privacy rights."
So, maybe that's so legally, but morally isn't it problematic?

I mean, it's fine, in fact great, for a landlord to go smoke-free if prospective tenants also have a choice to rent from another complex that makes units available to smokers. But to tell people who, for example, are coming indoors from homelessness that in order to get what may be the only available housing that's realistically affordable to them, they have to give up smoking? Oh, for pity's sake.

Of course smoking is unhealthful. So, yes, it can be bad for neighbors as well as smokers themselves. But, look, smoking is one of the small comforts that people indulge in when they are having the kind of bad time that tends to create eligibility for low-income housing. Is one more barrier to access really a good idea?

More fundamentally, are tenants of affordable housing free residents in arm's-length contracts with their landlords, or are they to be treated as "clients" with the tutelage that implies?

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