Making the Business Case for Prevention: Smokefree Multiunit Housing - transcript

[Patrick Lee] We are always, as developers, looking for a marketing edge. And that
marketing edge will transfer into our properties getting leased up sooner.
[Laurie McGrath] We’ve consistently in the housing industry found that residents have
asked when we could ever go smoke-free.
[Kate Bennett] We were getting weekly transfer requests from residents who were trying
to get away from secondhand smoke.
[Meena Carr] Eighty-five percent of the residents agreed that we should go smoke-free.
[Washington Beech resident] It was awful. You could smell it as soon as you walk in the
front door.
[Laurie McGrath] When you look at the economic benefits, you can see it from the
resident perspective, from the building perspective, from the community perspective.
[Patrick Lee] We work in lots of communities that are predominantly low income. And
then at the other end of the spectrum, we develop market-rate housing. You have very
high-income people, and they too are choosing smoke-free housing. We decided that it
would be a marketing advantage to offer a property that was smoke-free housing.
[Kate Bennett] What’s been common across all of those projects is the degree to which
smoking and secondhand smoke is impacting residents.
[Meena Carr] I am sort of responsible for Boston housing going smoke-free, which came
about because my grandson was diagnosed with asthma.
[Kate Bennett] People’s personal testimony was probably one of the most powerful
[Meena Carr] He started having these attacks when he would get up, and he say he
cannot breathe. You know so that really, it got to me. I asked them if they could make it
possible that the building be smoke-free.
[Laurie McGrath] Economically speaking, I think that smoke-free housing is a huge
[Patrick Lee] We all know that when an apartment has been occupied by a smoker there
are all of the fumes that are within that unit.
Making the Business Case for Prevention: Smoke-free Multiunit Housing Page 2 of 2 March 2014
[Laurie McGrath] The turnover cost to repaint is fairly high, and we see reduced costs in
terms of HVAC systems, maintenance of HVAC systems.
[Kate Bennett] I’ve seen anywhere from $600 to $3,000 as a differential for turning over
that unit.
[Laurie McGrath] The biggest cost savings that we’ve seen is insurance. Because,
naturally, smoke-free housing we’d find a reduced insurance rate.
[Patrick Lee] It reduced the liabilities associated with fire hazards.
[Laurie McGrath] It’s a cost savings that we can pass on to the residents. It’s a cost
savings that we can utilize within the building, those monies.
[Boston Public Housing resident] I was for the non-smoking from day one. Even though
I was a smoker.
[Malik Carr] Once I’m away from the smoke, I don’t have any asthma problems.
[Meena Carr] He hasn’t had a serious attack that warranted us going to the hospital with
[Patrick Lee] It’s a chance to support your residents so that they’re in a better position to
meet their lease commitments.
[Kate Bennett] We are just really trying to create healthier atmospheres inside the
buildings and move the smoke out. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t cost any money.
[Patrick Lee] It isn’t as hard as you might imagine.
[Laurie McGrath] Smoke-free housing is a win-win for the community, for the property,
for the residents.
[Patrick Lee] Yes, it’s wonderful that it’s been a financial benefit. Yes, it’s wonderful
that is has helped us market our properties more successfully. But healthier residents are
part of our communities. That’s the real, real benefit here.


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Page last reviewed: December 13, 2017