Tiny home dwellers have big hopes for Dayton

Tiny houses dwellers and those considering low-cost, downsized living, are hoping that one day Dayton might be home to a big, tight-knit, tiny house community.

“Tiny houses sort of spell out freedom, and that’s what hooked us. I can’t imagine it not hooking thousands of other people as well,” said Trevor Gay, who lives with his fiance, Mary Benasutti, and four cats, in a 224-square-foot tiny house on his parents’ property in Spring Valley.

The couple built their $33,000 eco-friendly, tiny home-on-wheels in five months, with the help of family and friends.

Gay said he got hooked on the idea of downsizing five years ago after stumbling on a blog post featuring one of the “cool, little houses.”

A tiny home is generally considered to be fewer than 400 square feet, and they are typically on wheels, for ease of travel or relocation.

The “tiny house movement” is growing with no signs of stopping, according to tiny home dwellers, DIY builders, manufacturers, and the popularity of TV shows like, FYI’s Tiny House Nation, and HGTV’s Tiny House Builders, and Tiny House, Big Living.

Gay and Benasutti’s tiny house has been featured on the later.

“It’s such a cool experience to just live in something that you physically built and not just picked out the plans for. It tests you and we did awesome together,” Gay said.

Their tiny home, which they’ve dubbed “The Heart of it All”’ features two lofts, one for sleeping and one for studying, relaxing, and watching their 46-inch TV, a kitchen with full-size appliances, a window seat, a dining table with two chairs, deep cabinets and storage drawers, a bathroom with a shower and composting toilet, 14 windows, a lofted bridge and sitting/running area for their cats.

The couple touted their $40 a month energy bill, and getting housework done in 20 minutes as two of the benefits of downsizing.

But the biggest challenge?

“Finding a space for your tiny house or home. Some people are lucky like us and they have land to put it on. Other people are struggling and moving across the country to communities that are meant for tiny houses,” said Benasutti, adding that communities have sprung up in Oregon and Texas.

There are about 20 people in Dayton who are interested in building tiny houses, but they are hitting roadblocks, according to Gay.

Tiny houses on wheels are in a unique category when it comes to regulations, according to Dayton Area Board of Realtors President Ralph Mantica.

“For it to be classified as real estate, it has to be attached to the ground. To be able to lend on it and to buy it, the wheels have to be off,” Mantica said.

Zoning and financing rules will need to be changed to accommodate a tiny house community, according to Mike Bedsole, owner of Tiny House Chattanooga. He showcased one of his company’s steel frame tiny homes at the Dayton Fall Home Show at the Dayton Convention Center in September.

“Dayton was going to be one of the first major cities to start approving these things, either on a foundation or off. From what I understand, they just want to be able to offer something to their people that live here, to be able to afford a home a little bit easier, and maybe bring some new life into the city,” Bedsole said.

Gay said he’s been involved in discussions with Dayton city leaders and planners about setting aside land for a tiny house community, but for now it appears the brakes have been put on the proposals.

“Those discussions, some were good, some were bad, and some were grey. It’s just tough. There’s a lot to do. The tiny house people right now seem like mosquitoes. There’s just one here and one there and it’s just kind of annoying because no one knows what to do with them. Now, there’s a lot more and it’s time to figure out how we handle these tiny houses,” said Gay.

City leaders are willing to look at these opportunities, but to his knowledge there isn’t any process going forward at this point, said Mantica.

Gay hopes Dayton will reconsider.

“If you bring in people from all over the country who are interested in tiny houses, you are talking about a really cool eclectic blend of people who give back to the community and are positive people to have in a community. So, I think Dayton should definitely have a tiny house community,” said Gay.