Bios: 2018 Northeast Cohousing Summit

Alan O'Hashi, MPA, resides in Silver Sage Village cohousing in Boulder, CO and is a documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and seasoned storyteller. His latest, "The New Deal Artist Public Art Legacy just aired on Wyoming PBS. He's developing the Lincoln Court Mixed Use Intentional Community in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Annamarie Pluhar, M.Div, is the founder of Sharing Housing, Inc. a nonprofit 501©(3) whose mission is to promote the idea of shared housing for adults and provide
educational resources. An award-winning speaker, she is the author of Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. She designs and delivers in-person workshops and on-line webinars to teach individuals and organizations the tools for effectively selecting a good home-mate. Her blog is at The nonprofit organization is at She is a graduate of Vassar College and has a masters in divinity from The Episcopal Divinity School. She lives in Vermont with one two-legged and two four-legged Housemates.

Carolyn Shapiro is an artist/education. She worked with her husband to establish White Pine Cohousing where she introduced the sociocratic method as the way to conduct cohousing meetings. She looks forward to sharing her experiences with how the sociocratic method works for White Pine and how it has helped members deal with difficult issues.

Catya Belfer is a founder and resident of Mosaic Commons, about an hour and a half East of Amherst. Catya works as a technical program manager and also builds websites for cohousing groups and others, including She cooks for the community once or twice a month. She is passionate about building connections between people and has been involved in intentional communities since 1994. On the non-technical side, she is fascinated by how we build community through ritual, tradition, and song, though she’s not as good at singing and harmony as her kid.

Charles Durrett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. He pioneered the cohousing movement in the U.S. and teaches architects and community leaders how to start successful cohousing communities around the globe.

David Berto created Housing Enterprises, Inc. 25 years ago to provide creative solutions to housing development and to preserve historic structures. Prior to this he was a nuclear engineer. Housing Enterprises, Inc. now has a staff of 4. Housing Enterprises assists small nonprofit groups and others in all aspects of developing and sustaining all types of affordable, mixed income and mixed use housing projects in Connecticut and other parts of the country. They work with each organization throughout all steps of the development process to create quality projects that strengthen neighborhoods and provide housing where families and individuals can feel proud to call home.

Debi Levine is a freelance instructional designer and professional facilitator with advanced graduate training in Social Psychology, People-Environment Studies, and Human Relations Training. Over the past 25 years, Debi has developed and led workshops on a broad range of management and professional development topics, and has consulted to several Cohousing communities on consensus-building and effective facilitation skills. Debi has an abiding interest in how the natural and built environments influence individual and interpersonal behavior, and how they can support health, healing, and a sense of “home.” She has been an active member of the Environmental Design Research Association, a board member of LivableStreets Alliance, a six-year resident of Cornerstone Cohousing in Cambridge, MA, and a former expatriate, having lived in Denmark for nine years – including in a variety of informal “living-together” housing situations.

Dyan Wiley is a founding member of Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community in Amherst MA. She was a key member of the Membership committee working to attract newcomers to their start-up community 25 years ago. She also served on the community’s Development Team, Facilitation committee, and kitchen design team. She has helped several other communities with their marketing and outreach efforts through trainings and informal consulting. For her day job, Dyan works full-time in the grants office at Mount Holyoke College and is a busy activist for immigrant rights.

Elizabeth Magill is one of the early members of Mosaic Commons Cohousing in Berlin, MA, and has been part of their conflict resolution (now called community support) team through its many changes. Liz also handles conflict and community in her "day job" is as a pastor in the United Church of Christ. When it's all too much she hides in her attic making quilts.

Gabriel Mugar is a researcher and activist working at the intersection of technology, media, and community building. He is currently a Design Researcher at IDEO in Cambridge, MA. Until May of 2018, Gabriel was a research associate and affiliate faculty at the Emerson College Engagement Lab where he coordinated a national study on civic media practitioners and taught courses on qualitative research and digital media studies. Gabriel earned his PhD from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies where his dissertation research looked at the newcomer management strategies of digital participatory platforms and how newcomers negotiate such strategies. Gabriel’s recent work includes designing experiences to engage Boston Public School students in conducting research and writing for descriptions of historic locations in augmented reality games developed by Niantic, Inc. (makers of Pokemon Go), and researching Civic Media Innovation in the United States, published as a white paper for the MacArthur Foundation. Gabriel is the founder of the Transformative Culture Project, aBoston-based nonprofit that supports career development for young media professionals across southern
New England, and is an affiliate of the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard

Jana Lussier is a Head Cook at Pioneer Valley Cohousing. She has also cooked semi professionally at various restaurants in her former life. Now she is a licensed Acupuncturist.

Jerome Garciano is an attorney with a concentration on state and federal tax financing incentives affecting the built environment. His experience includes provided legal support for developers, syndicators, investors, non-profit sponsors, and government agencies in renewable energy and real estate developments using the historic, new markets, renewable energy and low-income housing tax credits. As a LEED, AP, he has also served clients utilizing energy efficiency and renewable energy tax incentives. An attorney at a major Boston law firm, he has also served as a finance project manager at The Community Builders, Inc., a national non-profit developer of affordable housing. Prior to that, Mr. Garciano was a financial analyst with Recapitalization Advisors, a nationally recognized real estate finance consulting firm, specializing in repositioning affordable multifamily housing assets. He is a CPA and has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University.

Jenny French and Anda French, AIA, are principals of French 2D, an architecture studio based in Boston. French 2D’s work combines architectural form-making with integrated art practice, and experimental collaborative methods in commercial, residential, and civic projects. French 2D works on housing and mixed-use with a focus on unconventional housing types that combine familiar ideas of home with more radical organizations and typologies. They focus on the ethos of compact living and shared resources in projects like the first all micro-unit building built in Boston. French 2D was one of five finalists in the 2013 Museum of Modern Art PS1 Young Architects Program in New York, and the firm was featured as Architect Magazine October 2017 Next Progressives. Jenny French is a Design Critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Anda French serves on the Board of Directors of the Boston Society of Architects.

Jerry Koch-Gonzalez is a founding resident at Pioneer Valley Cohousing, and has been
teaching sociocracy and Non-Violent Communications for many years.

Karen Gimnig is a certified professional facilitator with Imago Relationships International. She believes that every decision to be made and every conflict that occurs is an opportunity to increase the sense of community in cohousing. She is passionate about sharing the tools that help communities take advantage of these opportunities to experience deeper relationships and greater joy. She brings experience from her own cohousing community as well other other communities, the board of Coho US, and other non-profit organizations. Feel free to contact her with questions at gimnig [at] gmail [dot] com or 678-705-9007.

Laura Fitch is a founding principal with Fitch Architecture & Community Design in Amherst, Massachusetts and a 24-year resident of Pioneer Valley Cohousing. Fitch specializes in energy-efficient building design for homes, commercial properties, and smart growth communities. She has worked on programming, schematic design, and/or full architectural services on over thirty cohousing communities across North America for which the firm has received numerous awards.

In 2006, Fitch was given the Boston Architectural College’s “Distinguished Alumni Award”, stating “because of you, Laura, many people have found more neighborly and sustainable ways to live. Through your work, our world is a better place”. Laura, principal of Fitch Architecture & Community Design, Inc., can be contacted at lfitch [at] facdarchitects [dot] com. 413-549-5799

Lyons Witten, 24-year resident, chairman of the Buildings Grounds Circle and a member of the Finance Circle of Pioneer Valley Cohousing (Amherst, MA), will present useful information on how to keeping your community running smoothly. From fascinating meal sign-up sheets to complicated replacement reserve spreadsheets, he has helped run a tight ship through the quagmire of cohousing!
Email: lyons [at] cohousing [dot] com

Mary Kraus, AIA, LEED BD+C is a cohousing architect and facilitator who has worked with over two dozen communities in the US and Canada over the past thirty years. She was a founding board member of the Cohousing Network (now Coho US). She lives at Pioneer Valley Cohousing, the first cohousing community in the eastern US, where she can be found preparing dinner in the common house kitchen with her cook team.

Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm has 29 families in a rural cohousing community on 113 acres in Peterborough, NH

Rev. Dr. Betsy Waters — a workshop leader, coach and a church consultant, pastor, past school psychologist and teacher, facilitator and process leader at Mosaic-Commons.

Richard Wilber has a B.A. in Fine Art, worked as a computer programmer, and is now retired. He is an amateur woodworker and has recently received a Permaculture Design Certificate, skills that will come in handy in the Rocky Corner cohousing community. He believes that living in community and designing the landscape using permaculture principles are important for the health of our planet. He is hoping that Rocky Corner can set an example in living the change we want to see, and that others will be inspired to do something similar.

Ross Harpestad is a resident of Mosaic Commons, about an hour and a half east of Amherst. He cleans up after meals three to four times a month as well as performs the monthly meals accounting and the every-other-month meals scheduling process. Ross works as a Senior Software Engineer and Analyst for a large for-profit that designs financial software geared towards schools, cities and counties governments. He grumbles a lot and has been involved with Mosaic Commons since 2009.

Ruth Neeman AIA, Principal, Director of Senior Environments Design Studio – LWDA a registered architect with more than 30 years of experience in planning, design and research focusing exclusively on environments that enable elders and support independence and aging with dignity. Her project experience includes new construction and renovations of Independent Living Communities, traditional and memory supportive Assisted Living facilities, Long Term Care centers, short term rehabilitative care units, as well as community based day centers. E-mail: rneeman [at] lwda [dot] com

Samantha Bernstein’s childhood summers were spent in a co-housing “situation” in Otis, Massachusetts that was founded by all four of her grandparents. She has a BA in Anthropology, a BS in Nursing, and an MA in American Studies, and is currently working on her MS- Nursing at University of New Hampshire. Sam became academically interested in co-housing and voluntary simplicity during college and her master’s thesis “Buy Less, Be More: The Transcendentalist History of Anti-consumerism” devoted an entire chapter to cohousing. She moved into Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm with her family in 2015 and has recently moved out of the ‘hood.

Shelly Parks left a nationally recognized sales and marketing career in the retirement living industry to focus on sharing her professional skills and experience with cohousers. Shelly completed the 500 Communities Program in 2017 and is now an affiliate of Cohousing Solutions. She is also a member of Skagit Cohousing, a developing community in Anacortes, WA. To learn more about Shelly and her work, go to her website:

Stowe Farm Community will have 11 families when complete, it has 8 families a rural cohousing community on ~80 acres in Colrain, MA

Zachary Belfer-Shevett grew up in community and now attends Hampshire College here in Amherst. They are a dedicated musician who plays guitar-like instruments and have sung in a variety of choruses, and are an avid contra dancer. Zachary recently finished a course in Ethnomusicology.