Affordable Housing in St. Petersburg Topic of 15th Annual Ernest R. Bartley Memorial Lecture

Written By: Jenna Johnston
Photos By: Kyle Dost


Reflecting on the impact of urban planning on communities, the 15th Annual Ernest R. Bartley Memorial Lecture hosted by the University of Florida Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URP) featured Ashon Nesbitt, a distinguished MURP alumnus, as the keynote speaker. His insightful talk emphasized the potential of planning in revitalizing disenfranchised areas and shaping a more equitable future in Florida’s cities.

Graduating with a masters in urban and regional planning from UF in 2005, Nesbitt has since established himself as a distinguished professional in the field of urban planning and affordable housing. Currently serving as the CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, Nesbitt leads the Coalition’s housing and affordability production and preservation initiatives. In his previous roles as the chief programs officer and technical advisor, Nesbitt spearheaded the expansion and professionalization of Community Land Trusts across Florida, developing the nationally-recognized Community Land Trust Certification Program

Speaking as this year’s Keynote Speaker, alongside his discussion of the principles of affordable housing and the role of the Florida Housing Coalition, Nesbitt used this opportunity to share with those in attendance the value of planning and the opportunity this profession has in acting as a force for good. Nesbitt underscored that the current state of Florida cities, highlighted by his hometown of St. Petersburg, is a direct consequence of past planning decisions, manifesting in issues like concentrated poverty and racial segregation. He reflected on how these disenfranchised communities, which had been products of design meant to depress their value, still were made up of many good things. Parks, recreational centers, churches, schools, and businesses built a foundation in these communities that reflected their values rather than their situation.

Using a variety of tools, planners have the opportunity to build off something that was bad, to create something new and valuable. Nesbitt continued this narrative through discussion with audience members, both in person and online, touching on the opportunities available to create positive change through new housing policy and equitable efforts in climate resilience. 

Nesbitt’s discussion reflects the values and principles that Ernest R. Bartley instilled in the program during Bartley’s 59 years associated with the UF. Considered one of the founding fathers of URP in Gainesville, Dr. Bartley participated in the formation of the department in 1975, and while retiring in 1992, continued to teach until his passing. During his time with the University, he received seven teaching awards from two colleges, was on the graduate faculty, and served as a member of several University-wide committees. The Ernest R. Barley Memorial Lecture is held each fall to honor his legacy. 

Now as URP approaches its 50th Anniversary, attendees of this lecture were first to see the new badge and slogan for the department’s 50th Anniversary Campaign. As the department heads towards this milestone year, the selected slogan, “Planning Tomorrow, Celebrating Today,” represents what has been accomplished and highlights the continued mission to educate the next generation of planning professionals. 

2023 Bartley Cover Ashon Nesbitt
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