News | 30 September 2016

Stoptober sees Council housing tenancies go smokefree

Creating healthy homes for its social housing tenants, providing a safe workplace for staff, and taking good care of the city’s assets are among the benefits Wellington City Council is seeking with a decision to expand its smokefree policy in its housing sites.

Under the City Housing Smokefree Policy 2016, all new tenancies signed from 1 October 2016 will be smokefree. That means smoking is prohibited inside the unit.

This expands on the existing smokefree policies at City Housing: in 2015, all communal areas were designated as smokefree and upgraded. New apartments have been smokefree since 2014. Other existing tenancies are not affected by the 1 October change, though tenants can voluntarily register their unit as smokefree.

The principle behind this policy is that tenants have a right to live in a smokefree environment and the benefits of making our housing smokefree are pretty clear,” says Councillor Paul Eagle, Chair of the Social and Recreation Committee. “As a social landlord, Council has a responsibility to provide healthier homes, as part of our focus on improving tenant wellbeing.”

“What we don’t want is for anyone addicted to smoking to fear they won’t still be supported and welcomed as a tenant. This is not about not smoking; it’s about keeping smoke away from certain spaces and from other people and their belongings. We are just asking smokers to have respect for their neighbours who don’t smoke, and for the property they live in.”

Council understands some tenants will find the policy difficult, staff will be taking a compassionate approach, and are able to refer tenants to support.

UNICEF NZ is delighted Wellington City Council shows leadership in protecting tenants from exposure to second-hand smoke.

"It's easy for policymakers and councillors to forget just how many children are reliant upon the social housing stock. Their rights to clean air and a safe healthy home are what this policy is protecting and ensuring," says Dr Prudence Stone, Child Rights Advocate for UNICEF NZ. "Second-hand smoke is something all children need protection from because it increases the risk of sudden unexpected death of an infant, asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, ear infections and eye irritations, as well as normalising smoking, putting exposed children at risk of taking up the deathly habit themselves."

City Housing’s smokefree strategy was first developed in 2012. The initial focus was on ensuring tenants knew how to access free quit smoking services, and, using its annual Tenant Satisfaction surveys, gauging tenants’ opinions on smoking within City Housing.

By 2015 there was a clear mandate for putting some smokefree areas in place, with 79% of tenants responding to the survey reporting to be non-smokers and more than half of respondents, including some smokers, supporting a smokefree stance (*57% wanted City Housing to be smokefree; 20% were unsure and only 23% were against going smokefree).

*City Housing Tenant Satisfaction Survey 2015