No smoking in social housing

Since the Smoke-free Places Act came into effect, there are few places left for Yukon smokers to enjoy a cigarette. If you're renting, you might not even be able to smoke at home.

Since the Smoke-free Places Act came into effect, there are few places left for Yukon smokers to enjoy a cigarette.

If you’re renting, you might not even be able to smoke at home.

The Yukon Housing Corporation is following the trend.

All of its social housing units will be smoke-free by January 1, 2012.

There are three main reasons for the change, according to Shona Mostyn, the corporation’s acting director of housing operations.

Smoking causes health risks, increased maintenance costs and fire risks.

By now we all know that second-hand smoke is dangerous for children, but seniors are also particularly at risk.

The majority of complaints that Yukon Housing receives relating to smoking come from seniors who live next door to smokers.

And after a smoker has been living in a unit, it usually requires a more thorough cleaning, maybe a fresh coat of paint.

The smoke gets into the carpet and into the walls. There are also frequently burns in carpets and countertops, said Mostyn.

“We need to be spending our money on real repairs, rather than cleaning up nicotine damage.”

Then there’s the risk of fire.

In 2009, Yukon Housing lost a unit to fire damage.

The fire report found that the ignition point was in a couch and was likely caused by smoking.

“And when you’re talking about multi-unit dwellings, the risk of fire is not just for an individual unit, but for everyone living in the building,” said Mostyn.

Yukon Housing notified all of its tenants on May 13.

Responses have been mixed.

“There are some people who are unhappy with it, and we expected that,” said Mostyn.

“The people who smoke in their unit obviously want to continue to do so, but we really have to look at the cost factor, the health factor and the risk factor.”

The new policy has been in the works for a while now, but comes at a critical time for Yukon Housing.

Thanks in part to Canada’s Economic Action Plan, Yukon Housing has more than a hundred new social housing units opening up this year.

“This is an opportunity for us to get these buildings healthy and off on the right foot and keep costs down from the get-go,” said Mostyn.

The policy is effective immediately for all new tenants moving into any Yukon Housing unit.

Current tenants have a grace period until the end of the year, to get used to smoking outside.

“We’re not going to turn people away or evict them from social housing because they smoke,” said Mostyn.

“If we do evict them, it will be because they violated the smoking policy.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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