EDITORIAL: CRD smoking policy forward thinking

Joint housing complexes must adhere to regional public place smoking rules

The Capital Regional District Housing Corporation, which provides affordable homes for 1,300 families in lower-income brackets, including in two West Shore complexes, is making more of its buildings smoke-free.

The program to phase smoking out of its properties in Greater Victoria began in 2007 and has included surveys with tenants. On the surface, it makes total sense to bring these affordable townhouse and apartment-style homes in line with similar properties across the CRD, in terms of disallowing smoking in or nearby the units. It’s a health concern, after all.

But as corporation senior manager Christine Culham notes, as a landlord, CRD Housing walks a fine line between creating a policy benefitting overall tenant health, and putting up barriers for those on limited incomes to get into much-needed housing. A national study by The Canadian Lung Association, for example, found that among adults in homes with a household income less than $40,000, roughly 30 per cent were smokers.

Less people smoke generally in B.C. – about 13 per cent of people over age 15, in any income bracket. In the CRD’s properties, which have a household income ceiling of $65,000, the number is slightly higher, at around 18 per cent.

Of the two CRD Housing properties on the West Shore, Portage Place in View Royal will be transitioned to smoke-free starting Jan. 1, 2016. Brock Place in Langford, whose residents were less supportive of the change, remains a “smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em” property for now.

While some might argue smokers should be able to light up in their home if they feel like it, Culham said a lot of smokers surveyed in their buildings indicated they would support a non-smoking policy for their complex.

This next transition phase will bring to 70 per cent the total CRD housing stock considered smoke-free. But it isn’t black and white, as it only applies to new tenants. Existing tenants can keep smoking in their suites, on balconies or patios for the length of their tenancy.

Nonetheless, this gradual move to go smoke-free strikes a good balance between promoting better health for the many and empowering the relatively few to choose to do the right thing.