State health officials say the demand for smoke-free housing is increasing in the state. Sieglinde Prior oversees the Smoke-Free Housing Registry for the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). “We get a lot of calls hoping that we can help people who are looking for, or living in apartments already, and they are dealing with a smoker in the same building. They are hoping that there is some sort of legal venue to help them to get the smoker removed from that building,” Prior says.
Prior says there are no rules to keep smokers from living in an apartment. “They’re hoping that the Smoke Free Air Act — which was passed in 2008 — would deal with that, but it does not. The Smoke Free Air Act only deals with the common areas in a multi-unit complex,” Prior says.
She can help them by suggesting a place where they can live. “We have a registry and it is housed in a website called: smoke-freehomes.iowa.gov,” Prior says. She says anybody can go there and click on the link to smoke-free housing. Prior says they will certify that the residence is indeed smoker-free.
“There are different levels, but the minimu that we require before we put a property into the registry is that at least one building is completely smoke-free. And they have no grandfathered residents living in that building,” Pior explains. She says they have partners that can work with landlords who want their rentals to be smoke-free.
Prior says they go out and have information and guides and if the property goes smoke-free, they can get free signage to advertise that they are smoke-free. The registry has 319 properties now listed. Prior says more builders of new rentals are considering making them smoke-free — with one reason being the cost. “The costs for preparing an apartment for reuse after a smoker has left is much higher — two to three to four times higher than if a non-smoker moves out,” Prior says.
The department is also working with another organization called Iowahousingsearch.com. “We are working with them so any property that we have in our registry, we will send it over to them, and they will mark it with a special icon that shows this property is on our registry and they meet these qualifications. Prior says a survey found nearly 75 percent of Iowans say they would choose a smoke-free apartment.