Maine Gives Tax Credit Developers Incentives for Smoke-Free Projects
The state of Maine is giving developers who apply for tax credits incentives to build smoke-free housing projects. The incentives are provided in accordance with the state's qualified allocation plan (QAP) for fiscal year 2008–09.
According to the state's QAP competitive scoring system, developers who prohibit smoking in units and common areas get a point added to the total score. To receive the added credit, owners must also provide leases containing a “No-Smoking in Units” clause. They also must provide tobacco addiction treatment programs for residents. Information on treatment availability is to be included in site resident service plans.
Site social service coordinators must provide residents with written educational materials about the dangers of tobacco use. State authorities indicated that a point will be added to the developer's score only if tobacco treatment and materials are made available throughout the compliance period of the housing project. The Maine smoke-free incentive follows a year of intensive efforts around the country to make affordable housing smoke-free.
Other States’ Efforts
Efforts to ban or reduce smoking at assisted and tax credit housing sites in the past few years have been enormously successful, according to Jim Bergman of the Smoke-Free Environmental Law Project (SFELP) in Ann Arbor, Mich. For example, in 2005, there were few smoke-free units in Michigan, he says. But by 2007, there were tens of thousands of smoke-free units throughout the state, he estimates.
The trend has been followed in many states nationwide. Bergman lists management companies with sites containing smoke-free units in various states nationwide, as follows: First Centrum, in Virginia, with 50 buildings and 5,500 units in 6 states, including 15 buildings in Michigan; Guardian Management, in Oregon, with 150 buildings in 7 states; Prometheus Real Estate Group, in California, with 18,000 units in the Pacific Northwest; Corcoran Management, in Massachusetts, with a 100 percent smoke-free policy for all new units. Globe General, a Canadian firm, which operates more than 10,000 units, requires all new residents to sign leases containing a no-smoking clause.
Besides the obvious fire hazards caused by smoking at sites, units occupied by smokers tend to have other problems, such as cigarette burns on wood fixtures, nicotine stains on walls, and tobacco odors in carpeting, Bergman says. Smoke-free units significantly reduce the cost of repair following move-out by the smokers who occupied them, he estimates. Cost savings can be as high as $6,000 per unit, he adds.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To learn more about Bergman's smoke-free initiative, go to www.mismokefree apartment.org. You can also visit the Smoke-Free Environmental Law Project Web Site at www.tcsg.org. sfelp/apartment.html.
Smoking Bans Are Legal
Many assisted and tax credit housing management companies had thought they were prohibited by law from banning smoking in units, says Bergman. But that is not the case, he notes. Owners and management companies have the legal right to add no-smoking clauses to leases, for current occupants (upon expiration of the lease) and for applicants, he adds.
The shift toward smoke-free units has occurred not only at assisted and tax credit sites but also among public housing authorities (PHAs), he says. Prior to 2005, only 12 PHAs had smoke-free policies in effect, he notes. But as of December 2007, more than 65 PHAs nationally adopted smoke-free policies, he estimates. Recently, that number rose rapidly, as 45 of the most recent PHA conversions happened in the last two years, he says.
More than 30 states have PHAs conducting no-smoking policies, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, he adds.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For background information about smoking at assisted and tax credit housing sites, see “Banning Smoking in Public, Subsidized Housing,” in the March 2007 issue of our sister publication, Assisted Housing Management Insider (AHMI). You can also find specific information on recent best practices in “Q&A on Restricting Smoking at Affordable Housing Sites,” AHMI, May 2007, p. 6.
Jim Bergman, Smoke-Free Environments Law Project; Ann, Arbor, MI