City of Shawnee bans roommates

SHAWNEE, Ks. (KCTV) – Shawnee has become the first city in Johnson County to explicitly ban a growing type of housing.

You may have heard of co-living, which involves a house set up with separate locked bedrooms and a shared common space, a concept that took off on the West Coast amid skyrocketing rents.

Co-living came to the Metro in 2018 and received accolades for creating affordable housing options. Then it came to Shawnee and the annoyed neighbors.

Many local cities have focused their efforts on regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb’s, but this is the first regulation that calls cohabitation by name.

A large house on rue Hallet has been attracting the attention of neighbors for months. They remember when it was foreclosed as a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home. Then they started seeing workers. They said the workers told them they were reconfiguring it into 7 bedrooms, which led them to ask more questions.

The company behind the project is HomeRoomfounded in 2018 by a man from Prairie Village, which has expanded to include six metro areas across the country.

Typically, the company entices investors to buy properties, which HomeRoom then rents and sublets as single rooms with shared common areas, maid and garden services. Some rents are as low as $350 per month.

The concerns have been raised at city meetings for months, starting with the planning commission and then with the city council. The council modified the charges recommended by the planning commission. One such change was to include the term cohabitation in the zoning rules rather than modifying a previously defined category to include the circumstances of cohabitation. On Monday, the board voted unanimously to pass the revised amendments.

Coincidentally, at the same meeting, before the zoning changes were put to a vote, council also heard a separate presentation on a Johnson County housing study, which showed a lack of affordable rental properties in Shawnee.

“In Shawnee, almost 50% of renters spend 30% or more of their income on housing. It’s a county-wide high,” Kristy Baughman, director of education and planning for United Community Services of Johnson County, told the council.

The correct number was 48%. The parallel number for homeowners was 14%.

Shawnee’s zoning changes specify that “cohousing groups” are prohibited in all residential neighborhoods.

“It’s every neighborhood, including our residential high-rise apartment neighborhood,” Shawnee community development manager Doug Allmon told the council.

The zoning ordinance defines a “cohabitation group” as four or more unrelated adults living together.

Although the change involves the number of tenants, one resident took issue with how she thought tenants as a whole were represented during the months-long debate.

“People who rent out their homes or live in multifamily housing are human beings. They live, work and pay taxes here in Shawnee,” said Shawnee resident Alex Welch. “This governing body exists to represent them and their interests, not just to protect land values. I live in a townhouse myself and feel extremely unwelcome when I hear these comments about my family and people like us and complaints that people like me might live next to a respectable single family neighborhood . My house is not an eyesore and I am not a handicap.

Even before council passed its new zoning rules, HomeRoom changed its listing for the Hallet Street home to a whole-house rental..

The other Homeroom-affiliated Shawnee property, which was originally intended for four tenants, is now for three.

A company spokeswoman wrote to us ahead of the vote, saying the company was backing away from any efforts to secure more properties there.

“We have generally focused our expansion efforts on the rest of the United States this year, introducing HomeRoom to new markets instead of continuing to only focus on our existing ones,” wrote Jordan Barnes, vice president of brand and communications at HomeRoom. “We’re not ‘leaving Shawnee’, but we see a lot more potential in other cities and we’re going to focus there. We are of course disappointed with the likely outcome of tonight’s hearing, given that Kansas [is] dear and faithful to our hearts, but it allows us to put resources[s] in cities that welcome/champion innovation and growth, rather than challenge them. »

The city specifically designates co-housing groups as different from group homes for people with disabilities, which are licensed.

Barnes said HomeRoom currently has 152 homes nationwide, with 1,000 tenants since its inception. Their goal is to reach 50,000 tenants in the next two years.

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