A city in Kansas has banned co-living, effectively making it illegal to have a group of unrelated roommates split the cost of rent in single-family residential zoning districts.
Shawnee, located in Johnson County, unanimously voted early last week to ban the living arrangement in an 8-0 vote by the City Council, The Kansas City Star reported.
As rental and housing prices have climbed across the country, people have turned to roommates to help balance the cost.
The Shawnee ordinance said a group of people is co-living if it includes at least four adults who are unrelated. Only one adult needs to be unrelated for the entire group to be classified as unrelated, according to the Kansas City Star.
“City Staff received input and concerns from residents and City Council members regarding a relatively new trend where single-family homes are being purchased and converted into rental units with multiple individual tenants,” a memorandum of the ordinance said.
“In this arrangement, individual tenants have leases of varying lengths, have separate secured access to their rooms, and often do not know or have relationships with the others who are also occupying the same single-family dwelling,” the memo continued, saying the rental arrangements are “not typical of common rental uses in single-family districts that are occupied by family units.”
The ban came in spite of data presented in a housing study that demonstrated the average home price in Johnson County rose 37% between 2017 and 2021, from $324,393 to $443,700, according to the Kansas City Star. The housing study referred to the price rise as a health equity issue, noting that wages did not rise at the same rate.
“Over and over again, what rose to the surface was the cost of housing was the thing that was impacting people’s ability to be healthy,” said Kristy Baughman, director of education and planning for United Community Services of Johnson County, per the Kansas City Star.
According to a 2022 Washington Post analysis, rent in Johnson County has risen by 11.4% just since 2019. The average rent paid was $1,263.
Part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, Shawnee had a population of over 65,000 in 2019.