California Developer Says ‘No’ to Smoking in Apartments

Towbes Group has imposed a no-smoking policy in the 13 multifamily properties it manages in California.

Santa Barbara, Calif—Smoking is often a hot-button issue. But the Towbes Group, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based real estate company, is taking a stand against it. The company has imposed a no-smoking policy in the 13 multifamily properties it manages around Santa Barbara. This policy includes both common areas and individual units.

Why the decision to go smoke free?

“Over the last couple of years we had received an increasing number of concerns from our residents regarding second-hand smoke,” Jim Carrillo, vice president, residential properties, Towbes Group, tells MHN. “Given that the percentage of Californians who smoke is down to around 15 percent, we looked into the information available from health agencies regarding the effects of second-hand smoke. Recent legislation passed in California also allowed landlords and property owners the option of offering “smoke free” living environments at their apartment communities. With the full support of ownership, the decision was made to go smoke free as a way of offering our residents an environment where they could breathe easier and live healthier.”

The properties that will be smoke free include communities in the California cities of Ventura, Goleta, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Carpintertia. This includes 1,995 residential units.

Current residents will be made aware of this change, and will be given a six-month grace period to comply with the new no-smoking policy.

Though seemingly a controversial policy, residents in Towbes Group’s communities have gone along with the change, and remain, for the most part, objection free.

“The Towbes Group has 13 apartment communities and 2,000 units,” Carrillo says. “Out of those numbers, I received two complaints from residents who were not in agreement with our new policy. In addition, we did have one resident let us know they would be moving out of one of our communities. If anything, that very small number validated our decision to go smoke free. We really believe that we will attract a greater number of prospective residents by offering a ‘smoke free’ living experience.”

According to Carrillo, there are several benefits to a no-smoking policy for both management and residents.

“First and foremost, we are committed to giving our residents the best living experience possible in their homes,” he says. “Offering a smoke-free environment complements that effort. We have a diverse portfolio including market rate apartments, affordable housing and senior housing. Going smoke free enhances the living experience of the two segments of our population most vulnerable to second hand smoke: the very young and the elderly. Finally, multifamily living does have a transient population. The cost to turn an apartment that has been smoke free is significantly less than that of an apartment that has been smoked in.”

Ultimately, though, the smoke-free policy is a quality-of-life issue.

“The most important reason is the ability to give our residents a ‘healthy’ option in multifamily housing,” Carrillo says.