Smoke-free rental units growing more popular

A smoke-free sign at the Cherrywood apartment complex in Clementon.
A smoke-free sign at the Cherrywood apartment complex in Clementon. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 27, 2013

Smoking even in one's own home may someday be a thing of the past, as more real estate developers and landlords in the Philadelphia region are embracing the trend toward healthy housing.

The 86-unit South Star Lofts at 521 S. Broad St. will prohibit smoking when it opens in early 2014, said Marianne Harris, director of marketing for the owner, Dranoff Properties.

Tenants there will pay about $1,600 monthly for a studio and as much as $2,600 for a two-bedroom apartment, Harris said.

She expects the 167-unit One Riverside Park at 25th and Locust Streets to be smoke-free, as well, a policy already in place at Dranoff Properties' 146-unit 777 South Broad, where rents start above $2,000.

"People who rent from us really, really like it," Harris said of the policy. "We generally stay 98 percent occupied."

Dranoff was not the first area landlord to go smoke-free. Trevose-based Korman Residential Properties began converting units in 2008.

Residents approached the property owner with the idea, and after surveying tenants, Korman made the change.

"We try to be as responsive as we can to our residents," said James Korman, company president.

Initially, smoking was prohibited in 142 apartments at Korman's 460-unit Cherrywood complex in Clementon.

Success there led to further conversion in other Korman complexes, including International City Chalets, International City Mews and International City Villas in Philadelphia; Brandywine Hundred, Brandywine Woods and Christina Mill in Delaware, and Willow Shores in Palmyra.

Today, 800 of the company's 6,000 units in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida are smoke-free.

"It is wildly popular," James Korman said.

Rental rates at the Korman properties range from about $700 per month to nearly $1,900.

Once deals close on the planned acquisition of other properties in Delaware, the management company will poll those tenants about establishing the same policy.

Most landlords in this region have been slow to make the shift, said Thurman Brendlinger, Clean Air Council program director.

"With any change like this, it is a gradual process," Brendlinger said.

On Aug. 1, the Housing Agency of Chester County became the first public-housing authority in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey to adopt a no-smoking policy.

It's unclear how many privately owned apartment buildings have set similar standards, but vocal residents are often the catalyst, said Liz Williams of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

Noted Rick Haughey of the National Multi Housing Council: "After noise, smoke and odors are the second-highest complaint from renters."

Along with appeasing tenants, the potential for savings appeals to property owners, Williams said.

Cleaning an apartment inhabited by a smoker can cost as much as $3,000 more than cleaning a nonsmoker's unit, according to some estimates.

Another benefit is the reduced chance of fire.

"Every building we turn over to smoke-free makes the fire department happy," James Korman said.

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration, smoking-related fires cause only 2 percent of residential fires, but they are the leading cause of civilian fire deaths.

"If you take a small percentage of that risk out of the equation, it is a good thing," Korman said.

Haughey said being smoke-free is a marketing opportunity for multifamily-property owners.

In Philadelphia alone, for example, 74.8 percent of adults are nonsmokers, according to the most recent figures from the city Department of Health.


aburdo@philly.com

215-854-2980 @newsburd

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