89-Year-Old Kicked Out of HUD Housing for Smoking Cigarettes

publichousing.compublichousing.comBeulah Toombs, an 89-year-old resident of Ohio, is being forced out of her home for refusing to quit smoking. Toombs lives in Cincinnati's AHEPA 127 Apartments, a building for low-income seniors whose rent is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, building residents were given one year to quit smoking when the building went totally smoke-free in 2013. Toombs refused. "I don’t think so," she told the Enquirer. "This is my home, and I think you can do whatever you want to in your home."

Clearly, Beulah is a badass (and a healthy one at that—the Enquirer reports that despite her lifelong cigarette habit, Toombs is in remarkably good health). But badassery is frowned on by building management, who deemed Toombs "non-compliant" after maintenance workers spotted ashtrays and cigarette butts in her apartment and another resident reported seeing a lighter and cigarette inside. Toombs is now being forced to evacuate by the end of April. 

"My mom is getting older, and this is causing her so much stress,” her daughter, Mary Ann Burgoyne, told the Enquirer. "She kept telling me that she was paying her rent. She was a little confused. She thought they might put her in a debtors prison."

Burgoyne approached a senior-advocacy group for help, but said they declined, saying her mom should quit smoking. 

The group probably couldn't have done much anyway—and that's somewhat as it should be. Toombs' apartment building is private property, and owners are free to impose whatever rules they like on tenants who choose to live there. If tenants don't like the rules, they're free to move somewhere else, as Toombs is doing. "This is the free market at its best," one commenter on the Enquirer article wrote. 

I wouldn't go that far. Private properties subsidized by the government aren't exactly "free market." Toombs' building is part of a national network of HUD-subsidized AHEPA apartment buildings for low-income seniors. 

HUD doesn't have the authority to force subsidized but privately-owned apartments buildings to go smoke-free. But it has been encouraging them to do so. Since 2010, HUD has been sending notices to property owners pressuring them to implement smoke-free housing policies.

When the folks in charge of your financing strongly suggest something, that's a strong incentive to do it. I'd wager many low-income buildings wouldn't be instituting no-smoking policies if it weren't for HUD butting in. 

At Toombs' building, it doesn't seem like residents were calling for the change. "I have been in this apartment bulding many times as my Mother lived there before she passed away a year ago this March," Trisha Dufresne commented on the Enquirer article. "It is very clean and you can't smell the smoke from inside the tenants apartments, so no one is really getting second hand smoke." 

Good thing HUD was around to stop the menace of an old lady unobtrusively smoking within the confines of her apartment!

More proof that government will use any particular power you grant it (in Toombs' case, by living in subsidized housing) as an excuse to reach into totally unrelated areas of your life. But hey, I mean, people should quit smoking anyway, right? I'm sure Toombs will be comforted through her stressful move knowing HUD was just trying to help her.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This...

    Toombs lives in Cincinnati's AHEPA 127 Apartments, a building for low-income seniors whose rent is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    Doesn't line up with this...

    Toombs' apartment building is private property, and owners are free to impose whatever rules they like on tenants who choose to live there.

    Once you starting taking FedGov money, forever will it control your destiny.

  • Andrew S.||

    Of course, if you read further, that's pointed out...

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I see. But in my defense, Mrs. Brown left a perfectly good Yoda reference on the table. I couldn't, in good conscience, leave it there.

  • Restoras||

    Didn't you mean to say, In good conscience, leave it there I could not?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Yes. Comes and goes, my Jedi Dyslexia does.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Agreed. I think it's stupid, and the old lady should be able to smoke whatever she wants. However, her subsidized rent comes with a no-smoking rule. So, sorry lady, no smoking. Or stop taking the money.

  • sarcasmic||

    Was that rule in place when she signed on? If not, shouldn't she be grandmothered out?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Tee hee hee.

  • trshmnster the terrible||

    You know who else tried to grandmother out some smoking ladies?

  • Zeb||

    How does that work? If you have a lease that says you can smoke, they can't just change the terms, can they?

  • Ivan Pike||

    How does that work? If you have a lease that says you can smoke, they can't just change the terms, can they?

    This is probably why they were given a year to quit. Your lease is up next year, be a non-smoker or we won't renew.

  • Dweebston||

    When a (busy)body meets a (busy)body...

  • sarcasmic||

    "Those are some nice subsidies you've got there. Sure would be bad if something happened to them."

  • Sigivald||

    Who pays the piper calls the tune.

    This is (one reason) why endless subsidies and "freebies" are toxic.

  • sarcasmic||

    who deemed Toombs "non-compliant"

    OBEY

  • Ken Shultz||

    "She kept telling me that she was paying her rent. She was a little confused. She thought they might put her in a debtors prison."

    I think her daughter is confused.

    This is America. We're all in debtors' prison.

  • ||

    As much as I detest them trying to make her stop smoking, if she wanted autonomy maybe she shouldn't accept subsidies from the people who want her to stop. If she lived somewhere where she paid her own rent or owned the home, no one could try and make her stop.

  • Sudden||

    This.

    I'll fight til my dying breath for her freedom to smoke in a home she completely pays for. But if you're gonna accept theft from my pocket, pardon me for not giving a shit if they restrict you or otherwise hurt your feelz.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You and Liz Warren should go play some miniature golf, maybe dinner and movie! You'd get along great!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htX2usfqMEs

    She used the roads. She benefited from government educated people. She benefited from the fire and police department...

    She didn't build that!

    So now she owes?

    She owes it to the government to stop smoking?

    Meanwhile, the government stripped her (and her husband, presumably) of gobs of income taxes, and for FICA and SSI and Medicare--whether she consented or not.

    And now that she's old and can't work anymore--she's supposed to do whatever the government says because she's taking their money?

    Does not compute.

    If I paid for the damn roads, why shouldn't I be allowed to use them? Hell, even Ayn Rand cashed her social security checks.

  • ||

    Spare me. If you take handouts, you set yourself up for this kind of shit, because they can refuse to give you any more handouts if you don't comply. If you put yourself in that situation, you fucked up.

    Autonomy requires, you know, AUTONOMY.

  • Ken Shultz||

    What's autonomous about being forced to pay for these programs all your life--when that's money that would have gone to taking care of yourself in your old age?

    Like I said, even Ayn Rand cashed her social security checks.

    If the government makes collecting social security contingent on quitting smoking--are you going to applaud when smokers never get any of their contributions back?

  • BSubversive.com||

    Actually, we should probably make smoking mandatory for those on SSI. Wouldn't that save money in the long run?

  • Brett L||

    At 89, she's already on the wrong side of the cost curve.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    She should triple her habit then.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Back when my great-grandmother was still alive (and she only died a few months ago aged 99), my grandpa would come visit her and would always bring cigarettes to her roommate.

    The nursing staff was fine with it as long as she did it outside in courtyard. Even they realized there's no point in stopping once you hit your 80s.

  • Square||

    I've always thought that if you're in your 80s and you've been smoking for, say, 60 years, the stress of trying to quit smoking would have to damage your health way, way more than it could benefit you at that point.

  • Sigivald||

    If the government makes collecting social security contingent on quitting smoking--are you going to applaud when smokers never get any of their contributions back?

    I'll consider myself lucky (notionally) if SS even exists by the time I qualify for it.

    Considering, as well, that my "contributions" were both exactions and never even claimed to pay for my future SS "benefits", I don't much give a damn.

    Current retirees are paid for by money from current workers. There never was a 'lockbox' or 'savings' or 'account' other than a pure legal fiction.

    (Ayn Rand cashed her SS checks? Yeah, because they gave them to her whether she wanted them or not just as they took her money to pay others against her will.

    I'm not a fan of Rand's, but that's pretty much completely irrelevant.)

    And of course, this lady, unlike people paying into SS, didn't have to move into a HUD-subsidized apartment, did she?

    She could have lived elsewhere without the handout (as people did before they existed!). Her participation in this program was voluntary, as far as I know.

    She owes it to the government to stop smoking if she wants to keep getting this handout she chose to ask for.

    There's no real parallel to Warren's pseudo-arguments about the Government commanding everything because it gave people benefits they had no choice to reject.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Considering, as well, that my "contributions" were both exactions and never even claimed to pay for my future SS "benefits", I don't much give a damn"

    You don't give a damn about having your money stripped out of your paychecks, ostensibly to fund our national retirement program--and then not being able to get any of your own money back?

    I don't believe you.

    "Current retirees are paid for by money from current workers. There never was a 'lockbox' or 'savings' or 'account' other than a pure legal fiction."

    You're blaming the victims for being defrauded (not to mention robbed)? How principled of you!

  • Ken Shultz||

    "She owes it to the government to stop smoking if she wants to keep getting this handout she chose to ask for."

    A handout?

    They drove her into poverty by taxing her and her husband for 100 years! And now you think she should lose something becasue she got some of her money back?

    When are they giving her all the money back that they stole?

    All those decades of savings she could have had! Even if that money had just gone into a small house, it would have appreciated with inflation. She'd have somewhere to live rent free!

    When does she get her money back that they stole?

    In the meantime, I'm supposed to be worried about what she's...*ahem* stealing?

    All backwards. You've got it all backwards.

    If she was working during that time, then she paid into social security for some 50 years. If her husband was working, too, they both paid into social security for 100 years!

    When are they getting their money back?

    I want to opt out, and I want back every penny back that the government stole from me under threat, as well.

    How dare she ask for her money back after they all but impoverished her in her old age--really?!

  • Calidissident||

    Where does this end? Something like half the country is taking direct subsidies from the government, and many more indirectly. Where's the line as to what this does and does not justify?

  • Invisible Finger||

    My grandmother lived in one of these ostensibly-private-but-HUD-subsidized-seniors-only buildings in the 80's. The rent was based on the monthly income so granny's subsidy was a total of $0.00. Her advantage was that it was seniors-only, which kept the crime rate down to nothing.

    Then HUD started changing the rules requiring the buildings to take people of all ages on disability. Of course, this meant HUD had to pay MORE in subsidies and naturally the place started filling with 30-year-old scammers getting disability for bipolar disorder - then using their apartments to deal drugs. If these jagoffs would have kept a low profile they could have kept the scam going, but of course these pieces of shit have vistors all hours of the night and sleeping in the laundry room. Granny got the fuck out of there ASAP and moved in with my folks.

    Building was boarded up 10 years later.

    In short, HUD is fucking this lady over. And that is what HUD's entire purpose has become. HUD does not and never has given a flying fuck.

    Never too old to learn valuable lessons.

  • bkieffer||

    Sounds a lot like Cliven Bundy. Wants the subsidy without the conditions.

  • Brett L||

    Eh, the wronger is the person trying to control another's behaviors.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Sounds like a con artist.

    Wants to charge her up the ying yang for taxes her whole life, and then when she's qualified to collect on what she's been paying for, they want to ship her off to the glue factory.

  • Loki||

    "This is the free market at its best," one commenter on the Enquirer article wrote.

    I strongly suspect that the commenter was a prog-tard attempting to be sarcastic. Like, "See, this is what happens when you leave things to the 'free market.' Derpity derp."

    All the while the conveniently ignoring the fact that if not for HUD the property owner would have probably never butted into their tenants private lives for no good reason.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    the fact that if not for HUD the property owner would have probably never butted into their tenants private

    Given the complete lack of comment by the management as to why they went smoke free, this "fact" doesn't seem all that factual.

  • Loki||

    HUD doesn't have the authority to force subsidized but privately-owned apartments buildings to go smoke-free. But it has been encouraging them to do so. Since 2010, HUD has been sending notices to property owners pressuring them to implement smoke-free housing policies.

    Try reading the fucking article. When HUD "encourages" property owners to do something, they generally do it. Because the next step after "encouraging" is to demand, or risk losing their precious subsidy.

    This is another case where there really is no "good guy." The property owners are rent seaking crapweasels as far as I'm concerned, and HUD are a bunch of assholes who seem to think it's somehow their business if people in low income subsidized housing smoke.

    But my main point still stands: if this was a truly privately owned, non-subsidized apartment complex, and the residents weren't complaining about smoking (they weren't, again RTFA), then there would be no reason for the property owners to do this.

  • Sudden||

    I live in a "smoke-free" building (eventhough a good portion of residents flout that regulation by smoking on the rooftop late at night). Completely privately run, no HUDsidies or Section 8 or anything.

    But I do live in a progtopia, so that is probably the reason for the petty fascismo.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh look! Someone taught a dishonest idiot some lawyerspeak, and now it thinks it's clever! How cute!

  • Libertymike||

    To whom are you referring?

  • Libertymike||

    Never mind, I see.

  • Zeb||

    Plenty of landlords are going smoke free all on their own these days. It probably lowers their insurance a bit and lots of people get all bitchy about moving into places formerly occupied by smokers these days.
    But I agree that in this case it seems like HUD pressure had a lot to do with the decision.

  • Drake||

    Particularly if you are renting to oldsters - some of whom have oxygen tanks and could turn themselves into human blow-torches.

    Some old lady in my town killed herself and burned down her apartment building last year by smoking near her O2 tank.

    I felt bad for the family in the apartment below who lost their stuff.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    So if a Christian baker refuses to serve gay shoppers, that's freedom.
    But if a landlord refuses to serve smoking tenants, that's government oppression.

    But the "libertarians" here are completely principle based and totaly not just choosing sides based on identity politics and then making up a BS reason why they're right.

  • Brett L||

    Nice strawman you just set on fire there.

  • sarcasmic||

    The Christian baker must serve gay shoppers because the government is telling them to.

    The landlord is refusing to serve smoking tenants because the government is telling them to.

    What was that about principles? idjit

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The landlord is refusing to serve smoking tenants because the government is telling them to.

    Assumes facts not in evidence.

  • sarcasmic||

    HUD doesn't have the authority to force subsidized but privately-owned apartments buildings to go smoke-free. But it has been encouraging them to do so. Since 2010, HUD has been sending notices to property owners pressuring them to implement smoke-free housing policies.

    Does the government really encourage anything?

    "Those are some nice subsidies you've got there. Be a shame if we found a reason to withhold them. I can send an inspector down to be sure everything is up to code. Oh? You'll implement the non-smoking policy? That's great!"

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    HUD doesn't have the authority to force subsidized but privately-owned apartments buildings to go smoke-free. But it has been encouraging them to do so. Since 2010, HUD has been sending notices to property owners pressuring them to implement smoke-free housing policies.

    You are correct. HUD isn't forcing landlords to make smoke free buildings. It's just nudging them. But as with all things government, the nudge will become a push, then a shove, then a slap, then a beating, then a...

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    When the folks in charge of your financing strongly suggest something, that's a strong incentive to do it. I'd wager many low-income buildings wouldn't be instituting no-smoking policies if it weren't for HUD butting in.

    If you'd remove the pole from your keyester read the article you'll see that no one is questioning the right of the landlord to implement a non-smoking policy in their building.

    You can respect property rights while casting disapproval on how a person uses their property, especially when it appears to be the result of government nanny-isms.

  • Lord Humungus||

    You know who else didn't like tobacco?

  • Libertymike||

    Indeed, one sees evidence of this every time the covers of supermarket rags bear photos of him with declarations that he is alive and well in some undisclosed Latin American enclave.

  • WTF||

    Elvis?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Damn your touch-typing ability.

  • Libertymike||

    Eh, if he were alive, he would be 79. The other guy, if he were alive, would have turned 125 the day before yesterday.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I wasn't aware Elvis had any stated preference toward tobacco use.

  • Lord Humungus||

    more of a peanut butter and nanner sandwich preference.

  • jmomls||

    *Toombs refused. "I don’t think so," she told the Enquirer. "This is my home, and I think you can do whatever you want to in your home."*

    Actually, no, grandmother, it's not YOUR home. It's SOMEONE ELSE'S HOME and you are paying, partially, to live in it.

    So no, you can't do whatever you want. Sorry.

  • KB Check Release||

    Perhaps I missed it and need to read the whole article.

    I have no problem with this lady being kicked out of 'her' unit if she continues to smoke WITHIN the unit.

    If they are using this as a B.S. ploy to control her behavior i.e. smoking at all whatsoever (even if it doesn't damage the unit), that's garbage.

    My landlord has a no smoking policy. So my roommates and I smoke on our front porch. Problem solved as we do what we want, but without harming a piece of property that is not mine.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement