SHAWNEE, Kan. —The Shawnee City Council may soon consider changing the city’s code to combat a new housing trend.
Community Development Director Doug Allmon said city staff have discovered a trend where single-family homes are being purchased and converted to rental units with multiple individual tenants. Allmon said that in these houses, people rent separate rooms and do not interact with other people living in the house.
To address the issue, the planning commission will recommend city council make changes to the city code that emphasize single room rentals.
One of the first recommendations would be to rewrite the city’s zoning to redefine “family” for single-family neighborhoods.
The proposed amendment would define a family as people living together as one house with a common kitchen including at most three people who are not related by blood, marriage or adoption living in the house.
“This is not an attempt to suppress any type of non-traditional family arrangement. It’s more about rooms rented by people who literally have no relationship to each other, they come and go, because they rent the rooms themselves,” Allmon said.
Allmon said city staff are aware of at least two single-family homes in Shawnee that have been split into units for multiple tenants.
He said that in these homes, tenants have secure access to their room and tenancy agreements of varying lengths, making it difficult for the city to determine how many people are living in the home at any given time.
The city will also consider adding a more comprehensive definition to the term “single housekeeping unit” to account for the potential conversion of single-family homes to other types of living spaces that exist in Shawnee. The proposed change would define housekeeping units as a group of people who live in a house with a common kitchen and share household responsibilities.
“Having this definition of housekeeping unit in there would prevent, for example, someone from converting a single-family home to a duplex by essentially putting a second kitchen, for example, in the basement,” Allmon said.
City staff recommends defining renovated single-family homes with multiple tenants as a shared home rental or rooming house and banning them in parts of the city zoned for single-family homes.
Residential group homes for persons with disabilities would not be affected by the proposed amendment.
Tracy Thomas was the only person to speak on the proposed change at a public hearing on Monday evening.
“The purpose of zoning is to provide insurance you can count on. That when you buy your home, if you buy an R-1 single family zoning, where your biggest investment is your home and you are going to maintain it. Compared to apartments that are placed in other zoned areas where their biggest investment (tenants) is their car and their property is maintained by others,” Thomas said.
Thomas also expressed concerns about parking and the potential devaluation of neighboring homes if single-family homes continue to be converted to multi-tenant rentals.
“These rooming houses rent rooms for $350. It’s not just affordable housing, it’s actually a form of subsidized housing at the expense of your neighbors’ resale value,” Thomas said.
The planning commission asked staff to provide concise, enforceable language on the proposed changes at the next regular meeting. If approved, city council will consider the proposed code changes at the next regular council meeting on Monday, March 28.
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