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Worth the climb converting your property to smoke free: one company's perspective.

WHEN BEACON COMMUNITIES DECIDED TO CONVERT IT'S ENTIRE MANAGEMENT PORTFOLIO OF MORE THAN 70 PROPERTIES INTO SMOKE-FREE COMMUNITIES, THE GOAL WAS SIMILAR TO SETTING OUT TO CLIMB MOUNT EVEREST BUT BEACON WAS ABLE TO BREAK UP THE INITIATIVE INTO SMALLER STEPS, SIMILAR TO REACHING A SERIES OF BASE CAMPS ON THE ASCENT, AND ACCLIMATING ON THE WAY. HOW DID THEY DO IT? READ ON.

Beacon Communities is a Boston-based real estate development and management company that owns and manages approximately 11,000+ apartments in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. In August 2015, Beacon implemented a smoke-free policy across its portfolio, which was initially conceived during the company's 2013 annual meeting. Shortly thereafter, a cross-functional committee was formed to investigate and recommend a course of action. The committee consisted of property managers, regional vice presidents, maintenance supervisors, resident service coordinators, human resources and members of Beacon's executive team. In March 2014, the committee made a recommendation to the Board of Beacon Communities in favor of implementing a smoke-free policy. The decision to go smoke-free is in keeping with Beacon's branding, Living Well By Design. "Creating policies that support and encourage a healthy working and living environment seemed to us to be the right thing to do for our residents and employees," said Pam Goodman, CEO of Beacon Communities.

NO SMOKING, NO EXCEPTIONS

Beacon intentionally decided that the smoke-free policy would have no exceptions. This means smoking is not permitted anywhere on a Beacon property, so there are no designated smoking areas. The policy applies to residents, visitors who come to the property, employees, vendors and contractors. The fact that the policy is all-encompassing and applies to everyone has been favorably received by a significant percentage of the residents living at Beacon properties.

BASE CAMP 1: PROVIDING NOTICE OF CHANGES TO POLICY

Prior to the implementation of the smoke-free policy, Beacon provided residents and employees a 15-month notice. Beacon used this time to obtain resident input on the policy, hold resident meetings to discuss the initiative, provide change management training to Beacon team members, update collaterals and websites, and prepare the required Lease Addendums and House Rules. Providing ample notice has been a key factor in Beacon's successful implementation of this initiative. In addition, starting in July 2014, Beacon used its monthly newsletter, circulated to all 11,000+ apartments, to focus on various positive aspects of smoke-free living.

BASE CAMP 2: TRAINING EMPLOYEES FOR SUCCESS

One key element of the implementation was to train Resident Service Coordinators (RSC) and other interested Beacon employees to be Cessation Coaches. Training was offered through the American Lung Association's certified Cessation Coach Program. To date, 36 employees have successfully completed the program. The free cessation classes created a supportive environment to help those who wanted to live a healthier lifestyle by quitting smoking or reducing the number of cigarettes they smoked. The classes were held in the various propertys' community rooms, so this was an added convenience.

BASE CAMP 3: MARKETING THE CAUSE

Smoke-Free buttons were made for team members to wear, and cloth shopping bags with the Beacon smoke-free logo were distributed to residents. Beacon also created a smoke-free video that was used at resident meetings, corporate events and presentations. The video underscores the health effects of second- and third-hand smoke in multifamily housing, told through the eyes of a young person. The narrator of the video is a resident at one of Beacon's properties.

GETTING TO THE TOP, AND STAYING ON TOP

One of the final documents created by the Smoke-Free Committee was Beacon's Smoke-Free Enforcement Policy. This policy consists of warning letters, lease violation letters, as well as scripts for team members to follow when meeting with residents in violation of the policy. All team members were given training on the enforcement policy, including maintenance staff and courtesy patrol officers. To date, Beacon has not evicted any resident for violating the policy. However, this will most likely change in 2016. The open question is whether or not the housing courts will evict a household for violating the policy.

Over the next two to three years, Beacon will be tracking various data points to determine the impact of the smoke-free policy on legal costs, evictions, turnover costs, vacancy loss and insurance claims. The goal of collecting and analyzing the data is to quantify the expense and/or savings associated with this initiative and evaluate the data over time.

TO VIEW THE VIDEO PLEASE LOG ON TO YOUTUBE AT https://youtu.be/e4CvpTVhAX4

MARY CORTHELL (MCORTHELL@BEACONCOMMUNITIESLLC.COM) IS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, ASSET MANAGEMENT, FOR BEACON COMMUNITIES LLC IN BOSTON.
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Comment:Worth the climb converting your property to smoke free: one company's perspective.
Author:Corthell, Mary
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2016
Words:765
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