Tenants must stop smoking or leave apartment complex

Residents at Keewaydin Plaza and Sunnyslope Homes in Kennewick have until Sept. 1, 2011, to crush their smoking habit or vacate their apartments and duplexes under rules adopted Tuesday by the Kennewick Housing Authority board.

The new smoke-free rule takes effect Feb. 1, requiring current residents to sign new leases agreeing to the rule by March 1.

But current residents will be allowed to take advantage of a grace period until Sept. 1 if they sign an exemption that will allow them to smoke in their rooms until then. After that, though, they will have to quit the habit or move.

Housing board members also agreed to establish designated smoking areas at Keewaydin Plaza, Sunnyslope Homes and Mitchell Manor -- the authority's three properties in Kennewick which provide about 150 public housing units.

Tuesday's decision came after the five-member board weighed the desire to have a smoke-free policy with concerns of residents who protested being forced to quit smoking.

"This is going to be hard for a lot of our elderly people," said Debbie Hathaway, who lives in the 66-unit high-rise Keewaydin Plaza at Washington Street and 6th Avenue.

"We are being isolated and mistreated simply because we are handicapped," added Caroline Aldridge, a former resident of Keewaydin Plaza who said as a former smoker she sympathizes with those who still have the habit.

Board member Laurie Tufford said she had heard the concerns and wanted to make the smoke-free rule as easy on the residents as possible.

"This has really caused some havoc at Keewaydin. They are very passionate about this," Tufford said.

Jack Robinson, a Keewaydin Plaza resident, suggested the board declare all units smoke-free except those occupied by smokers.

Then when the smokers leave on their own it could declare those units smoke-free.

"It might take a year or two or five, but eventually you'd have everything smoke-free," he said.

Christopher Webb, who sits on the board as a resident of Sunnyslope Homes, said he would support a smoke-free rule if the board would help residents by designating smoking areas or helping them find other housing.

Board president Amy Ward, who is executive director for Tobacco Free Benton-Franklin Counties, supported having designated smoking areas.

"(Without it) we would be encouraging people to break the rule," she said.

Ward said public housing agencies in Walla Walla, Franklin and Umatilla counties already have smoke-free policies.

"We are the doughnut hole," she said.

But Ward did not support the motion to establish the smoke-free policy with designated smoking areas and the six-month grace period. She abstained, while the four remaining board members voted for it.

Board member Tom Moak proposed the grace period, saying it wasn't right to force elderly and disabled residents to go outside in the middle of winter for a smoke.