SHAWNEE, Kan. — The City of Shawnee is facing a federal lawsuit over a controversial housing ordinance approved by the city council last spring.  

Shawnee resident Val French and the Prairie Village-based real estate company HomeRoom, Inc. are suing the city for putting limits on the number of unrelated people who can live together in a single family home. 

Last spring the Shawnee City Council unanimously approved an ordinance limiting the number of unrelated adults who can share a home.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, claims the city has overstepped its authority through the ordinance by regulating land users, instead of the land itself. 

“Neither does it regulate use or intensity. It makes no change to the allowable density of dwellings within a given area, or to lot coverage, or to the number of dwelling units that a development may include.  Instead, it 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 lawsuit states. 

Despite pushback from residents,  one of the major changes put in place by City Ordinance No. 3419, commonly referred to as the co-living ordinance, rewrites city code to define “family”.  

The code defines family as a group of one or more related people living together, or a group of fewer than three unrelated adults living together in a single family home. 

The city ordinance states if one adult tenant is unrelated by blood, marriage. adoption, or guardianship to another adult in the group, the entire group will be classified as unrelated.  

Any group of four or more unrelated adults living together in a home would be considered a co-living group. The city currently prohibits co-living houses and rooming houses in nearly all zoning districts. 

When the ordinance was adopted, French was living her own home in Shawnee with her husband, two adult sons and her son’s girlfriend. Because the girlfriend was not related to anyone else in the home, the entire household was considered unrelated. 

While French’s son and his girlfriend have since moved out, the ordinance prevents French from inviting them to move back in or renting out the room out to a different tenant. 

HomeRoom managed two properties in Shawnee. According to the lawsuit, the company was forced to evict tenants as a result of the city ordinance and now only subleases homes within the city to blood-related families.

Plaintiffs in the case aren’t seeking financial compensation, but instead are hoping the courts will prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance going forward. 

FOX4 received this statement on behalf of the city from Shawnee Communications Director Doug Donahoo 

“The City is not aware nor has been served of pending litigation regarding this issue.”