Open porches lead to good neighbors and safety

Should the city allow new housing units to have enclosed porches?
In case you are wondering, this is actually a hot-button issue in the city council.
A proposal, which seemingly came out of nowhere, would no longer require new housing units keep their front porches open. Apparently, there are some in the community who have the necessity to close off their porches – perhaps as a way to create an additional room.
It may seem silly to argue over whether to allow homeowners to take this extra step, but there is something important at stake.
Hamtramck’s housing design is not by accident. The houses are built up close to the sidewalk with open porches. The openness allows for more neighborly interaction, and it’s a way for a block of people to bond.
People are out on the porches looking after one another’s children, and also keeping an eye out for trouble.
Open porches also aid police and firefighters in doing their jobs.
Closing off porches creates a fortress-like mentality. People will hunker in and have little interaction with their neighbors.
Enclosed porches would also block the sight lines for the entire block.
Those seeking to enclose their porches claim that it’s for privacy and security. There is also the argument that a homeowner should have a right to decide what to do with their own house.
That’s not true, though. There are plenty of zoning rules and regulations regarding the design and materials used in constructing a new house.
Keeping open porches is one of them. For years, no one has had an issue with this concept, but now, suddenly, is has taken on an importance – at least for some in the community.
The city councilmembers are currently considering the issue, and after a lengthy discussion at last week’s meeting, they wisely decided to hold off on making a decision.
There are just too many unknowns with this issue.
Hamtramck’s open porches are a part of the fabric of what makes this city so people-friendly.
Let’s keep it that way.
Posted Dec. 4, 2020

8 Responses to Open porches lead to good neighbors and safety


    December 4, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    It’s now certain that the mayor is the one writing this column in return for keeping the Review in business with taxpayers’ money.

    A simple search for “Do I need a permit to enclose my porch” in Google will present you with thousands of cities in the country, which are much more friendly and more well-run than Hamtramck, that allow it.

    1- Prevent police officers and firefighters from doing their job

    FALSE: Hundreds of houses in Hamtramck in enclosed and we never heard that they hindered police or fire from doing their job. All other cities allow them and their and out of the multiple fires Hamtramck has had, none where in an enclosed porch house.

    2-Blocks the line of sight
    FALSE: The ordinance doesn’t prohibit you from blocking the left and right side of your porch either with wood, curtains, shrubs, privacy lattice….etc. and you can have the best line of sight with a perfect memory by installing surveillance cameras on the side of your house.

    3-There are plenty of zoning rules and regulations regarding houses.
    FALSE: These regulation are to insure the safety of the house. No regulation should regulate the looks of the house if there is no logical reason behind it. We have hundreds of already enclosed porches and buildings without porches and Hamtramck still looks beautiful.

    4-Nobody wants them except some in the community
    FALSE: If only some few people want it, then let it pass, a few people in the community doing it will not affect anything especially that already hundreds already have enclosed porches.

    Illogical thinking: Only a few people want it, but if we allow it, suddenly the whole city will do it.

    BENEFITS OF PORCHES: ( A copy that was sent to the planning commission )

    1- People no longer socialize on porches, they do mostly on social media.

    2-They have nothing to do with safety, many cities allow them and fire depts. don’t mind their existence.

    3-The makeup of the community has changed during the past decades and many people prefer the privacy of an enclosed porch to an open one.

    4-Enclosing the porches provides the residents with a safer environment, less theft of packages left by delivery drivers.

    5-Enclosing the porches extends their useful purpose all-year around instead of just the summer. People will use them as storage spaces for their bikes, shoes and many other things.

    6-Enclosing the porches as a sunroom will provide the resident with a warm place to set during the cold season.

    7-This issue has been brought before the zoning board many times, indicating that it’s time to update the code related to it.

    8-Enclosing the porches, which usually is done with insulation, helps in the saving of energy in most Hamtramk houses that don’t have insulation because of their age.

    9- Quite a few houses have been enclosed in the city w/o the code being enforced against them which raises the issue of “Selective Enforcement” which we’ve been complaining about for a while. Removing this restriction will insure more fair enforcement.


    December 5, 2020 at 4:23 pm


    I’ve been a firefighter for a while here and you’re completely wrong. Enclosing porches above the first floor will absolutely be a safety issue for residents and firefighters alike.

    The fire department is opposed to above grade enclosed porches. You may think it’s nonsense, but people will die and firefighters will be injured as a result. You should stop by the firehouse and talk to the guys about it.

  3. Nasr Hussain

    December 5, 2020 at 4:59 pm


    Can you provide the sections of the international file code that substantiate your claims?

    The experts state that dwellings with balconies are more of a fire hazard than dwellings without and that makes sense, the fire will remain contained, specially with the new building material and insulation used otherwise the flames can easily spread to adjoining houses without containment.


    December 5, 2020 at 8:50 pm


    The international fire code doesn’t dictate tactics. It also doesn’t take into consideration the infinite difference in ways buildings are constructed in a variety of communities.

    The way our homes are constructed here are not conducive to enclosed fro t porches above grade. I don’t care what anyone says. I’ve fought enough fires here to know that. It eliminates an efficient means for secondary egress for civilians and it eliminates an essential path for ingress or secondary means of egress for firefighters.

    This is a citation from an article you listed, “In addition, the presence of a balcony can offer residents an alternative means of escape in a fire event if
    their main exits from the dwelling are inaccessible (see Approved Document B Paragraph 2.7 [3]). Even if
    not by design, a balcony can provide a refuge area for occupants to await rescue from Fire and Rescue
    Services for which there are numerous documented cases (see [4] and [5]).”

    Also what’s not mentioned in that article is how the balcony is constructed. New construction is much different than the type we have here.

    The” evidence” you’ve provided is mostly from the United Kingdom as well. They utilize a completely different code, building construction techniques, and different firefighting tactics.

    Your articles also state that bbqs on a balcony are the leading cause of balcony fires. Good thing we already have an ordinance prohibiting that.

    Like I stated previously, perhaps you should stop by the firehouse and talk to us. I’m sorry to tell you that your ideology on this issue is going to get civilians killed and firefighters injured. It’s not even a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.


    December 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    What you’re saying doesn’t make sense.

    No city mandates that every houses/building be built with balconies as a mean of egress.

    1) A lot of houses were built to settle our African American brother’s lawsuit against the city without balconies. Did the city want to endanger their lives?

    2) There are hundreds of houses in Hamtramck already enclosed. In the past 20 years can you point to one fatality that occurred in a house in an enclosed balcony?

    If such requirement is a necessity for saving lives, it would have been codified long time ago in the fire code.

    Failure to produce the laws and rules governing this and relying on gut feelings doesn’t work in this country.


    December 6, 2020 at 3:43 pm


    I’m done arguing with someone who clearly doesn’t want to
    understand what I’m saying.

    You seem to have no concept of multi family housing versus single family housing units. You literally have no idea what your talking about.

    I’m curious where all these houses with second floor porches enclosed are. You come up with a comprehensive list of addresses for the “hundreds” of houses with enclosed second story front porches and I’ll go take a look at em and let you know what I think.

    You can lobby this idea all you want. But, if it takes off and becomes a thing of popularity, when you turn on the news one morning and see that a whole family is dead as a result of us not being able to quickly access the second floor to make saves, just remember that you played a role in that. You want to believe what you want to believe and not listen to people who are considered experts in their field.

  7. Nasr Hussain

    December 6, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    & if you have time, use google maps to look around Hamtramck, A am sure you’ll find many more.

  8. Nasr Hussain

    December 7, 2020 at 1:41 am

    For your reference, the fire code already settled these issues.

    NFPA 101 section

    “Every dwelling unit shall have access to not less than two separate exits remotely located from each other as required by 7.5.1”

    and “A single exit shall be permitted in building not exceeding three stories in height”

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