A resident and a Johnson County property management company are suing the city of Shawnee for its controversial “co-living ban,” which was instituted last year.
The company, Prairie Village-based HomeRoom, Inc., and Shawnee resident Val French filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in federal district court in Kansas City, Kan.
The suit is seeking to overturn the city’s rules on cohabitation in residential areas. The plaintiffs are represented by the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation.
“The problem is that when you so restrict the kinds of people who can live together in a single family home, you make housing affordability much more difficult,” David Deerson, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, told the Post. “You sort of intrude into the private lives of people who should be allowed to structure their own homes in the way that they see fit.”
Shawnee adopted co-living ban last year
- Last spring, the Shawnee City Council unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance, which effectively limited the number of unrelated individuals who can live together in a single living space to three.
- The rule also prevents companies, like HomeRoom, or private citizens from buying residential properties and using them for room-by-room rentals unless the occupants are related.
- “It looks a whole lot like they essentially were just trying to target HomeRoom and prevent them from operating in town,” Deerson said.
- Backlash to the rule change was swift last year. An online petition was signed by nearly 450 people, and some community members protested outside City Hall.
- Shawnee this year has also considered steps to ban short-term rentals, like AirBnBs, in its residential neighborhoods, but no action has been taken.
New lawsuit says Shawnee exceeded its land-use authority
- The lawsuit alleges Shawnee exceeded its authority to decide zoning, land-use intensity, occupancy and other building codes by passing a rule that “regulates land users,” not the land itself.
- “[I]t regulates only people. Whether a home is in violation of the ordinance depends on one factor alone: the identity and relationship of the people who live there,” the complaint says.
- In addition to the city, the lawsuit names city manager Doug Gerber and city code enforcement officer Kevin Messick as defendants.
- “The City is not aware nor has been served of pending litigation regarding this issue,” Shawnee’s communications director Doug Donahoo told the Post in an emailed statement Wednesday.
- The plaintiffs are not seeking any monetary damages, Deerson said, but instead want the court to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance.
One plaintiff was worried about the impact of the rule last year
- French, during a May 2022 city council meeting, said she had concerns about the rule, specifically how it might impact her own family’s living arrangement.
- “It’s really confusing to me why this council made decisions that they made without considering all of those situations,” she said at the time, calling the ordinance “racist” and “classist.”
- Deerson said French’s adult son and his girlfriend were living in her home with French and her husband, as well as French’s two other children. That living arrangement technically violated the ordinance, Deerson said, and became “illegal overnight.”
- French’s son and his girlfriend have since moved out, but they cannot return and she can’t rent the room out to supplement her income either, Deerson said.
Read the full complaint below:
Keep reading: Councilmember, petition call for Shawnee’s new co-living ban to be revisited
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