Smoke-free housing effort keeps gaining momentum
JANESVILLE A countywide effort to make multiunit apartment buildings smoke-free is making progress.
One property management company recently converted its Janesville complexes to smoke-free, and other landlords are interested in making the switch, said DeeDee Williams, prevention specialist with Rock County Youth2Youth.
Williams has been researching apartment complexes with at least four units and calling landlords to find out if smoking is allowed in them. If it is, she's asked if they would be willing to listen to the benefits of becoming smoke free.
"I've had a really good response," she said. "There's been very few that said we're not interested."
Some already were making plans to go smoke free, and Williams offered assistance for signs and paperwork.
Of the 62 multi-unit complexes identified in Rock County, Williams was able to make contact with 22. All of them allowed smoking, except for one complex where some units were smoke-free.
A statement from Millennium Professional Management, which manages Janesville properties that recently went smoke free, said the switch was made for several reasons, including economics, fire safety and the preference of residents.
The county effort is part of a $450,000 federal grant the Transform Rock County Coalition received last year to promote physical activity, healthy food systems and smoke-free living. Youth2Youth, a tobacco control/prevention coalition in Rock County, is collaborating with the Rock County Health Department.
The first thing apartment managers worry about is whether it's legal to make their buildings smoke-free, said Debbie Fischer, director of Youth2Youth. It is, she said.
"We're just here to be a resource to them and kind of educate them," she said.
The health benefits of a smoke-free environment are clear, she said. It has made a tremendous difference in workplaces and businesses, she said, but many people still are exposed to smoke in their living spaces. Benefits to the landlord include:
-- Reduced fire risk, which can cut insurance premiums.
-- Easier cleaning after tenants move out, which saves time and money. The Millennium Professional Management statement said owners estimate it costs $500 to $8,000 more to rehab a smoker's unit versus a smoke-free unit.
-- Residents surveyed prefer it. Seventy-two percent of renters in buildings that allow smoking, but keep their units smoke-free, would prefer nonsmoking buildings, according to a 2012 survey of Wisconsin renters by the Center for Urban Initiatives & Research.
Building can go smoke free on different levels, Fischer said. Smoking might be prohibited only inside apartment units, or in the units and in common areas or the entire property.
The 131 public housing units in Beloit started going smoke free in 2011 and will be fully converted by November 2013, public housing coordinator Cindy Holmes said.