Prince George’s County housing officials are working on plans to snuff out smoking in public housing.
The ban, approved by the County Council in July, affects 376 housing units spread across the county overseen by the Housing Authority of the Department of Housing and Community Development. The bulk of those units, about 290, are designated senior housing.
The income limit for qualifying for space in one of the housing units vary as for a single person to qualify for a housing unit they would have to make no more than $37,650, according to the department’s statistics.
Violating the smoking ban could lead to eviction from public housing, said Eric C. Brown, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Before the ban on all smoked tobacco products can be fully implemented, the agency must rewrite leases, which could take at least several months, he said.
“That’s going to be a delicate kind of balance,” Brown said of enforcement of the ban. “I can envision having an initial warning and from there we would ratchet it up.”
The legislation is a test for expanding the ban to private apartment complexes and senior living centers, said Ellis Watson, chief of staff for County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington, who proposed the legislation.
As the legislation is implemented, Patterson will measure its progress and if it is well received by residents will consider expanding the bans reach to private facilities, Watson said.
The exact number of people living in public housing is unclear as rapid changeovers in housing make it difficult to determine a day-to-day count, said Alexis Revis-Yeoman, a housing department spokeswoman.
Patterson proposed the legislation in part after visiting some of the county’s public housing facilities.
“I’ve visited public housing facilities, and you needed a mask, the smoke was that thick,” he said. “If you’re in a private space and you want to smoke, that’s on you, [but] it’s a public facility.”
Patterson’s office received complaints about the smoke from public housing residents as well, said Derrick Coley, a public affairs liaison for the councilman.
“It’s a lot for individuals to put up with when they’re on public assistance,” Coley said.
The complaints about smoking surprised Pearl Price, who said she moved into the senior housing units in the housing department’s 40-unit Rollingcrest Village apartment complex on Sargent Road in Hyattsville about 18 months ago. The 67-year-old, who began smoking when she was 18, said she didn’t feel smokers were causing a problem.
“There aren’t that many people that smoke here,” Price said. “There’s not enough [smokers] to ever create a cloud of smoke.”
The housing department is still working out details such as determining whether it will create designated areas where smokers can light up.
The potential cost of the ban to the housing authority is unclear, Brown said.
“It could end up being cost-neutral,” he said. “It depends on how often we have to go to court over this matter.”