Federal lawsuit filed against Shawnee over co-living ordinance

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:52 PM CDT
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SHAWNEE, Kan. (KCTV) - A federal lawsuit has been filed against Shawnee, Kansas, after the city instituted a controversial co-living ban last year.

As the ordinance currently stands, a group of four or more unrelated adults living together in a home is classified as a co-living group. The city prohibits co-living homes in nearly all zoning districts.

“It feels like they just don’t want certain types of people to live in their city,” Jae Moyer told KCTV5 News. “The more I thought about it, the more insidious it was.”

Moyer was just trying to make ends meet when the co-living ban was passed in April of 2022.

“I was taking classes at JCCC and working a full-time job,” Moyer said. “Supporting myself at the time and not being able to live with roommates is that much more expensive. For a college student, that could be detrimental.”

“Don’t pass laws that make it harder for people to afford housing,” said David Deerson, a Pacific Legal Foundation Attorney. “That’s the opposite of what people should be doing.”

Deerson filed the case against the city of Shawnee. He’s representing a resident and a Johnson County property management company called HomeRoom. HomeRoom allows people to rent individual rooms in a home, making for much cheaper rent.

There are three claims in the lawsuit:

  1. The ban violates due process under the U.S. Constitution
  2. The ban violates equal protection under the U.S. Constitution
  3. The ban violates the Zoning Enabling Act under Kansas law

“Zoning is about use and not users, so governments need to stop employing zoning laws in order to regulate the kinds of people that operate a property,” said Deerson.

Moyer has family and friends living in Shawnee. He fears they will have to leave the city because of the ordinance and is relieved action is being taken.

“It’s about your constituents,” Moyer said. “It’s about the impact this will have on people’s ability to have a roof over their head.”

The city made a statement saying: “We are not aware nor have been served of any pending litigation surrounding this issue.”