Overcrowding of rental properties has been a historical problem in Amherst; largely related to off-campus student housing. This is likely to be worse this year due to the decrease in on-campus housing available to students. The cost of off-campus rentals is expensive for most people so there is an incentive to try to share the cost.
Amherst Town By-Law states:
12.172 A group of unrelated individuals, not to exceed 4, residing cooperatively in one dwelling unit.
Improper bedrooms in attic, basement, or even closets often leaves occupants with only one way out.
Always have 2 ways to escape the building in case of a fire
Higher risk behavior related to alcohol, smoking, large gatherings, and covered or missing smoke detectors is prevalent problem in off campus student rentals already
Overcrowding increases the opportunity for community spread of Covid-19
Housekeeping is often a challenge in student occupancies and overpopulation makes the challenges of housekeeping more difficult.
Covering or removal of smoke detectors causes delays in notifying the residents as well as the fire department.
Overcrowding Impacts on Fire Department
Amherst Fire Department is a relatively small fire department with only 7-8 members on duty at one time.
We provide all Fire and EMS responses in Amherst, including the University of Massachusetts, as well as Amherst College and Hampshire College with those same 7-8 people.
In addition, we provide EMS services to Leverett, Pelham, and Shutesbury.
We lack of resources to both fight fire and perform rescues within the first minutes of our response. We often have to do one and then the other. For exmaple, rescue of 1 adult size person requires 2 people to carry out of a building
Overcrowding leads to people living and sleeping in areas we would not expect to find them.
Examples include attics, basements, and closets
These areas often lack a second way out of the building
Lack smoke detectors because they are not considered bedrooms
Lack of adequate electrical outlets in those spaces relative to the many devices we use on a daily basis.
Leads to multiple extension cord and power strip use, overloaded electrical circuits and increased potential for electrical fires.