KINGSTON — Will the Luzerne County Housing Authority ban smoking in its senior housing units?
About 60 percent of residents of Luzerne County elderly housing want smoking banned in their buildings, while 27 percent say they want smoking to still be allowed. Thirteen percent have no preference.
The results came from a survey conducted by the Luzerne County Housing Authority of residents of about 700 county elderly housing units.
Executive Director Dave Fagula told his authority board Tuesday the agency now must decide how to proceed.
“We have concerns about second-hand smoke and accidents that could result in smoking in bed,” Fagula said. “Many of our residents want to see smoking banned, and we will take a hard look at where to go from here.”
Deputy Director Rose Yarmel, who conducted the survey, said that if the authority enacts a no-smoking policy, it could designate outside areas for people to smoke. However, Fagula said that could be a problem for elderly residents during the colder months.
Yarmel said that before a decision is made, the authority would contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and ask for assistance.
“We would bring in speakers to talk about the issue and we could offer smoking-cessation programs,” Yarmel said.
Fagula said enforcing a no-smoking policy would be difficult and would depend largely on residents of each building policing themselves.
“We would also consider enacting a policy that all new tenants would be advised that there is a no-smoking policy in the buildings,” Fagula said.
He said the elderly units represent about half of the agency’s residents. He didn’t say whether a similar no-smoking policy would be put in place in the Section 8 and low- and moderate-income buildings.
In other business, Fagula announced the project to build six elderly housing units in Plains Township at the site of the demolished Sacred Heart Church on Main Street is moving along.
“We hope to have all the architectural and engineering studies completed so we can put it out for bid in the spring of 2014,” Fagula said. “We hope to have the units completed by the end of next year.”
The units would be about 750 square feet with one bedroom and would rent for $550 per month, utilities included, he said. The authority has received $1 million in funding through the county, state and federal sources, he said.
The authority purchased the 1-acre parcel two years ago for $135,000 and spent another $50,000 to demolish the church and convent with the intent of building 12 units, but lack of funding forced the authority to scale back its plans.