DIXON – Lee County is getting a head start on a federal mandate requiring all public housing authorities to ban smoking come summer.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a rule in December 2016 that gives housing authorities until July 30 to have smoke-free policies in place.
Last month, Lee County Housing Authority sent letters to residents across 207 units at McReynolds Towers, Forest Hills Family Housing, Amboy Apartments, and the authority’s scattered sites, notifying them that they will be banned from smoking within all buildings, individual units, hallways, common areas and laundry rooms, and within 25 feet of the properties.
About 2 dozen residents attended a meeting held Tuesday to explain the decision.
During the meeting, Executive Director Tom Myers said that while it’s not set in stone, they are considering putting up a handicapped-accessible smoking shelter at McReynolds, which houses 98 people.
“It would be nothing elaborate, but at least it would be something to keep them out of the rain,” he said.
The policy will be drafted in March and residents will need to sign amended leases in May before the smoking ban takes effect July 30.
The Lee County Health Department also offered to provide resources to tenants looking for help to quit smoking.
It’s going to be tough for heavy smokers to make the change, but it’s a federal rule they need to follow, said Tom Kitson, chairman of the housing authority board.
The housing authority receives its funding through HUD and rent.
“You’re asking them to change their lifestyle, and if you’ve been smoking 50-plus years, it can be hard to do that,” Kitson said. “I’m sympathetic because of that, but it’s a HUD mandate.”
The Ogle County Housing Authority already banned smoking from its properties – housing authorities have been asked to voluntarily go smoke-free for several years – and Whiteside County is working on its policy, Myers said.
Call 815-284-2759 for more information on the Lee County Housing Authority, 1000 Washington Ave., in Dixon.