Ready for Smoke-Free Housing – The Waterloo Community Housing Experience

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On April 1st, 2010, Waterloo Region Housing became the first community-housing landlord in the province to implement a smoke-free policy on all new leases. Spread over urban and rural areas, Waterloo Region Housing manages a sizable portfolio—approximately 2700 units, housing 6000 to 7000 tenants. This was the first policy of its kind in Ontario, and one of the first in Canada.

“We began to get calls from tenants in many of the buildings saying, 'We are bothered by the smoke,’” explains Ken Sieling, Regional Chair of Waterloo Region. Many were seniors and tenants with health conditions exacerbated by exposure to second-hand smoke. Dealing with the complaints on an individual basis was no longer working, so the region enacted a comprehensive policy banning smoking in units, including on patio and balcony spaces.

Propel scientist Ryan Kennedy has worked closely with Region of Waterloo Public Health and Waterloo Region Housing to evaluate the impact of the Waterloo Region Housing policy from the beginning, including: collecting air quality measurements, analysing data from the annual tenant survey and reporting on findings.

Kennedy has created a video to encourage other communities to enact similar smoke-free policies in multi-unit dwellings. “Tobacco control advocates, public health units and private citizens, including those that live in social housing, can use this video to present to Boards of Health and Housing Commissions,” he explains. “The hope is that over the next decade smoke-free dwellings become the national norm.” 

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