A national ban on smoking in public housing is in effect as of Tuesday, but not in Nashville. The local housing authority says it has decided not to enforce the new rules, even though many residents have been under the impression the blanket ban applies to them.
And for good reason. They recently signed leases clearly saying smoking is prohibited, which some were unhappy about.
"I don't see how they're going to detect if you're smoking inside your unit or not, because I've already been here three years. It's already smoked up," says Muszetta Randolph, who lives in North Nashville's Cheatham Place. "So how are they going to determine if I'm still smoking?"
Turns out, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency is adding an addendum and grandfathering in current tenants, according to spokesperson Jamie Berry. She says MDHA still wants to discourage smoking but without the threat of eviction.
"We really wanted to take a better approach by providing…smoking services to our residents to help them quit or to help them smoke less instead of enforcing a ban," she says.
.@SecretaryCarson: HUD’s #smokefree rule will protect the health of families who live in #publichousing, visitors to public housing and those who work in public housing. https://t.co/nZndnYRgbF pic.twitter.com/wCoB6fLa46
— HUDgov (@HUDgov) July 31, 2018
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented the ban, with the goal of reducing maintenance costs and improving health for children. It was set into motion by the Obama administration and continued under President Trump.
But MDHA officials argue the national ban does not apply to Nashville because they recently assumed control of their properties from the federal government under a program known as Rental Assistance Demonstration. It's the same initiative that is helping the agency fund a transformation of the James Cayce Homes in East Nashville into a mixed-income complex.
MDHA is not changing the 6-year-old smoking ban at its high-rises.
However, the national smoking ban will apply in surrounding cities, like Murfreesboro, though housing officials around the country acknowledge it will be difficult to police.
"That ain't going to solve the problem. People will still do what they want to do," says Robin Everson of Cheatham Place. "The things they should be worried about, it's not smoking."