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Tiny homes could be a solution for affordable housing. They might soon be built in Manatee

Mike Dixon is shown with some of his tiny houses that will be used in an existing RV camp in Wildwood. These tiny houses were manufactured in China. In the future, Dixon hopes to manufacture his own product line in the United States, perhaps in the Bradenton area.
Mike Dixon is shown with some of his tiny houses that will be used in an existing RV camp in Wildwood. These tiny houses were manufactured in China. In the future, Dixon hopes to manufacture his own product line in the United States, perhaps in the Bradenton area. jajones1@bradenton.com

As the CEO of US Prefab, Mike Dixon says tiny homes and other types of micro-housing could provide relief for the affordable housing crisis.

Dixon has been working with Stan Rutstein, an agent/broker at Re/Max Alliance Group in Bradenton, scouting for property to use as a manufacturing facility in Manatee County.

“We are new to Bradenton and are considering establishing a local manufacturing facility to build more of these kinds of units in addition to building modified shipping containers for our hotel properties but also to provide affordable housing units in Manatee County and surrounding areas,” Dixon said.

He envisions building tiny homes and retrofitting shipping containers for use as modular homes, offices and other businesses.

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Tiny homes fit a lot into a little bit of space. This unit is earmarked for an existing RV camp in Wildwood. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

The shortage of affordable housing is a problem across the country and locally, where the Manatee Chamber of Commerce has established the Attainable Housing Task Force.

“We are looking to build our own product and develop the property,” Dixon said. “Our focus is on affordability.”

One of Dixon’s businesses, Bonaparte Industries, was founded on the promise of revolutionizing the micro-housing and mobile dwelling markets by creating more innovative and durable dwellings for various markets.

“We disrupt by bringing more affordable, more cost-conscious, more durable and more energy-conscious dwellings to the markets of out subsidiary product line and companies,” Dixon said.

To date, Dixon has been importing tiny homes from China and Malaysia, but tariffs on foreign-made products make domestic production look more attractive.

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These tiny houses were manufactured in China, and one was recently stolen in Bradenton. The owners are offering a $5,000 reward through Crimestoppers for its recovery. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

The tiny homes imported by Dixon measure about 120 square feet and include bath, kitchen and sleeping facilities. Some may include a loft as well. All are on wheels and can be towed to RV campgrounds or used as Maison Hotel rooms, which operates along the lines of an Airbnb.

“Maison Hotels produces high-quality travel lodging units at a fraction of the current cost to build a hotel room,” Dixon said.

Dixon has been staging his tiny homes in a fenced area of Team Success charter school in Bradenton, which is planning an expansion using his company’s modular buildings.

One of the tiny homes parked on the campus proved so attractive to someone that they hitched it to a vehicle and stole it Dec. 14, Dixon said.

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This tiny house imported from China includes a loft. Mike Dixon of US Prefab hopes to manufacture them in the Bradenton area in the future. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“We have an award available for a successful tip and recovery of the unit for $5,000 with Crime Stoppers,” Dixon said.

Crimestoppers can be contacted at 1-866-634-TIPS.

Fred Spence, founder of Team Success charter school, plans to expand his campus to accommodate growth, which has reached an enrollment of 750, with 10 new classrooms from US Prefab.

Asked why use prefabricated buildings, Spence has a ready answer: “Because it is affordable for us.”

Rutstein said the lack of affordable housing is a national problem.

“Everyone is looking for an option B,” Rutstein said of the search for a solution.

One of the options might be in retrofitting shipping containers, which are in plentiful supply.

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These tiny houses were manufactured in China. In the future, Mike Dixon hopes to manufacture his own product line in the United States, perhaps in the Bradenton area. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“We are trying to find them some acreage where they could do a small community and at the same time an area where they could retrofit the product,” Rutstein said. “It’s early, and we are kind of on the hunt.”

US Prefab is in the business of providing quality, long-lasting modular and modified container buildings to builders and real estate developers through a range of innovative and flexible business concepts, Dixon said.

A potential Manatee County small open-air manufacturing yard would be tailored to the needs of regional customers in terms of speed, quality and competitive costs, Dixon said.

The demand for modular components is growing rapidly across the United States for many reasons, one of which is the growing labor shortage for the various trades to complete homes and other construction projects, he said.

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