A Big Future for Tiny Homes in Dayton?

By Jeremy Wiedle

June 24, 2015

Trevor Gay and Mary Benasutti are living large in a small way.

With their self-titled “Heart of it All House," the couple is credited by other area media outlets as being the first in the region to build and live in a “micro home.” At 224 square feet, it certainly fits the bill.

14 windows spread sunlight throughout the one room home, and the four-wheeled trailer it sits on allows for easy moving. Inside, lofts on each end maximize living space.

“As long as there is a power hookup, our house requires 220 power supply - and it’s ultimately a garden house that feeds our water. And you just hook it up to a full ton truck, make sure you don’t hit anything above 13’6” and you’re ready to go,” Gay says.

The newly engaged Miami Valley couple may soon have company.

Darin Zaruba is president and CEO of Colorado-based EcoCabins. His company specializes in factory-built tiny homes, and last weekend partnered with Dayton’s annual Homearama.

Zaruba says Dayton, unlike some larger western cities he has visited, could offer a solution to one of the largest problems plaguing the tiny house movement - a place to put those tiny houses.

“Most of the people that are doing that now [building tiny homes] are going outside of city areas, they’re going into rural areas, they’re going onto someone else’s property where no one is ever going to bug them. I would say a majority of people are not wanting that lifestyle. They actually want to be closer to a metro area, they want to be closer to arts, a river, biking trails, coffee shops.”

Earlier this year, the Home Builders Association of Dayton and city officials reached out to Zaruba to discuss possible development of the metro area.

“When I came here 3 or 4 months ago just to look at the place and talk to the housing and building association president, I drove around and saw a lot of the places they were calling ‘blighted areas.’ And I thought, my gosh this is a beautiful area, here’s these beautiful lots,” Zaruba said.

“Somebody with a business sense, and a marketing sense, could come in and re-zone something that would be tiny house friendly. And that would create a sense of community as well, so maybe block by block - that’s what I just proposed to the city.”

No official plans are drawn, but Zaruba explains how having a tiny home development in the metro area could save the city money in property management costs while bringing in new taxpayers.

“As I drove around, it seemed to be a beautiful merging of a need, big need, big desire, that I’ve seen in the growing industry of the tiny house movement, and an opportunity to fill that need with a municipal, metro area that would be able to do it.”

Trevor Gay echoes the need for a tiny home community in Dayton. He says the active, outdoor lifestyle associated with tiny house builders can be found throughout the Miami Valley.

“If there was a proper way to do a community downtown, near it, that was safe, organized, and it wasn’t the same stigma as a trailer park - it’s a tiny home community, that would be awesome. There’s a need for that,” Gay said.