About the Regent Park revitalization

 

Why revitalize 

Regent Park was built starting in 1948. Most of the community was inaccessible by traffic vehicles because of its planning. It was designed as a "garden city," physically turned away from the city, with many walkways and park spaces instead of streets. The result, unfortunately, was the isolation of the neighbourhood's more than 7,500 residents from Toronto's downtown. When revitalization had begun, most of the buildings had gone 50 years without any significant capital upgrades.

Revitalization is the most viable business strategy to replace or repair poor quality housing in Regent Park at the lowest cost to taxpayers. This approach benefits tenants living in Regent Park and elsewhere in our portfolio, as it enables us to direct our limited capital repair money to other communities that don't have the opportunity for revitalization.

Revitalization is transforming Regent Park into a successful, mixed-income, mixed use neighbourhood, like many others in Toronto, offering residents a mix of rental buildings, market condominium buildings, townhomes, commercial space and community facilities.

The revitalization plan includes diverse architecture, expanding and reconnecting the road networks and adding new pedestrian-friendly streets maintained by the City. It also means adding new parks and open spaces and new retail and community facilities.

Before revitalization there were 7,500 tenants living in 2,083 rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units. After revitalization, there will be:

  • About 12,500 residents
  • 2,083 RGI units replaced (about 1,583 on the original site and 500 nearby in east downtown)
  • 700 new affordable rental units (about 200 on the original site and 500 nearby in the east downtown)
  • over 3,000 market condominium units, including some affordable ownership opportunities (each paying property taxes to the City)
  • a mix of townhomes and mid-rise and high-rise buildings
  • new places for residents to get to know each other in the buildings and throughout the neighbourhood such as:
    • parks
    • an new aquatic centre
    • a new community centre
    • an arts and cultural centre and 
    • new retail and commercial spaces

The revitalization is also acting as a catalyst for change beyond the physical infrastructure. Already 465 jobs have been created for local people as a direct result of the revitalization, in construction, retail, and others. You can read more about employment for tenants here.

Community planning principles

The Community Planning Principles are the fundamental objectives of the Regent Park revitalization. They were developed out of the original Regent Park Master Plan planning process and they have been accepted by the Regent Park community as guiding the rest of the planning and revitalization process. They refer to the physical renewal of the community and community renewal through social development

  1. Renew the Regent park neighbourhood
  2. Re-introduce pedestrian-friendly streets and park spaces
  3. Design a safe and accessible neighbourhood
  4. Involve the community in the process
  5. Build on cultural diversity, youth, skills and energy
  6. Create a diverse neighbourhood with a mix of uses including a variety of housing, employment, institutions and services
  7. Design a clean, healthy and environmentally responsible neighbourhood
  8. Keep the same number of rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units
  9. Minimize disruption for residents during relocation
  10. Develop a financially-responsible strategy
  11. Create a successful Toronto neighbourhood
  12. Improve the remaining portion of Regent Park during redevelopment

Sustainability

Sustainable building practices save money we can invest back into the community. It’s why we’ve included features like energy-efficient appliances, improved in-suite air quality and low-flow faucets and toilets in new units. New buildings also include features like green roofs and thermal windows. The whole community is heated and cooled by a district energy system that will keep 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas out of the air over 30 years, the equivalent of taking 66,000 cars off the road for a year. Because Toronto Community Housing pays for utilities as part of our operating costs, reducing consumption also makes good business sense.

Quality architecture

High-quality architecture and urban design are key features of the revitalization. Every new building (both rental and condominium) is evaluated by the same architectural review, the Regent Park Design Review Committee. All buildings and public spaces follow the Regent Park Urban Design Guidelines and the Development Context Plan that is developed for each phase. New buildings, including rental and condominiums, have won awards for high-quality design. A consistent high standard of quality and design of all the new buildings means that you can’t tell from looking at them if they are rental or condominium.

Employment for tenants and community economic development

Local employment
Local employment is an important part of revitalization with 491 jobs created for local people as a direct result of the revitalization. In Regent Park, new retailers like Tim Hortons, FreshCo by Sobeys and RBC have hired more than 130 local residents. Also, more than 100 construction positions have been offered to community members. Individuals access training and jobs through the City of Toronto Employment Centre that opened at 530 Dundas Street E, in Regent Park, in 2009.

At the Regent Park Employment Centre, local residents have access to one-on-one help with resume and cover letter writing, job search, networking and interview skills, education and training options and other career planning supports.

See the latest employment report from the City’s Regent Park Employment Centre here.

Social Development Plan (SDP)
In leading the revitalization, Toronto Community Housing worked with the City of Toronto to create a Social Development Plan. The goal is to make sure the revitalization delivers many positive social and community development changes in addition to new buildings and streets. 

Toronto Community Housing has helped to implement the Social Development Plan.

  • We have built and/or improved key community facilities.  So far, these include:
  • a new daycare at One Oak
  • Regent Park Centre for Learning
  • Regent Park Employment Office

  • We have secured government, business and community support for community amenities including:
  • a new central park
  • a new indoor aquatic centre
  • a new community centre
  • an arts and cultural centre

  • We have consulted and partnered with community partners and agencies, including:
  • Artheart
  • Artscape
  • Cabbagetown Regent Park Museum
  • Dixon Hall
  • Neighbouhood Information Post
  • neighbouring Business Improvement Areas
  • neighbouring residents associations
  • Regent Park Community Health Centre
  • Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative
  • Salvation Army
  • The Toronto Christian Resource Centre
  • Toronto District School Board
  • Yonge Street Mission
  • And others

Condominium sales

When condominium units go on sale, Regent Park tenants have the first choice of the units. So far, 12 tenants have purchased condo units with help from the Foundation Program.

The Foundation Program helps Regent Park tenants who want to make the move from living in social housing to owning a new home in their community. It provides a second mortgage of up to 35 per cent of the purchase price to tenants who have the employment income to carry the first mortgage of at least 65 per cent. The program includes financial education for tenants to ensure that the home purchase can be sustained.

The second choice of units goes to members of the Inner Circle program. Anyone can join for a small fee. Members get first access to information and then sales of condos. This is a program used by our development partner, Daniels, for sales of condos across the Greater Toronto Area.

Finally, sales are opened to the general public.

To read the May 2009 letter from former City of Toronto integrity commissioner David J. Mullan about staff purchases, click here.

Affordable home ownership

One goal of the Regent Park revitalization is to create a mixed-income, mixed-tenure community. This means including some affordable ownership units for Regent Park tenants and other low and moderate income people.

So far, 179 people, including 12 Regent Park tenants, have bought a condominium in Regent Park by accessing the BOOST Program or the Foundation Program.

When plans were first developed to revitalize Regent Park there was no affordable home ownership program. Since then, Toronto Community Housing and our development partner, Daniels, have worked with the provincial government and the City of Toronto to make affordable ownership part of the revitalized Regent Park. There are two down payment assistance programs: the “Foundation Program”, exclusively for current Regent Park tenants, and the “Down Payment Assistance Program” for people with moderate incomes who may need help to make the step into homeownership. Both programs are funded by the governments of Ontario and Canada as part of the New Affordable Housing Program. In Regent Park this program is delivered by Toronto Community Housing and administered by Daniels.

Foundation Program
The Foundation Program is for Regent Park tenants. It provides down payment assistance to purchase a home in Regent Park. Tenants must show that they have employment income to carry a ‘first’ mortgage of at least 65% of the price of the home. The program provides a ‘second’ mortgage to cover the rest of the purchase price, up to 35%. This ‘second’ mortgage does not need to be paid monthly like a regular mortgage. It is paid when the house is sold.

Down Payment Assistance Program (BOOST)

The BOOST program is open to people with moderate incomes who usually do not already live in Regent Park. It provides up to 10% of the purchase price of a home in Regent Park. This program was first rolled-out as part of the overall sales campaign which was launched in 2008. Similar programs are funded across Toronto through various other housing providers.

Financial Planning Program
Becoming a homeowner is a big step that requires long-term planning. To support Regent Park tenants, Toronto Community Housing, Daniels and the Royal Bank of Canada created a financial planning program for prospective homeowners. Over two sessions, participants learn about personal budgeting, how mortgages work, the process for buying a home, condominiums and living in a condo, and how the down payment assistance programs work. Participants are contacted regularly with information updates and opportunities to learn more about personal financial planning so that, if they are not ready for the program now, they can be better prepared for any future opportunities.

Financial plan

The entire revitalization is expected to cost just under $1 billion over 15 years. The plan relies on leveraging the value of Toronto Community Housing’s land, which is maximized through the creation of a strong residential and commercial real estate market. This has already been achieved with sales of condominiums and leasing of commercial and retail space in Regent Park so far. And the market continues to grow.

Toronto Community Housing realizes the value of its land with a development partnership with The Daniels Corporation. The partnership returns net proceeds to the partners, including a majority profit share to Toronto Community Housing on the sale of condominiums at Regent Park.

Through bond funding and equity, Toronto Community Housing will invest just under 60 per cent of the total expected cost of the revitalization of just under $1 billion. The financial plan forecasts about 13 per cent will come through government grants or rebates (more than half of this has already been received). The balance will be paid for through the net proceeds of condominium sales.

Toronto Community Housing is funding its investment in infrastructure and replacement housing through a bond issuance arising from new and more efficient buildings that will result in lower long-term operating costs. Without the revitalization, the capital repairs backlog at Regent Park would be added to the Toronto Community Housing’s growing backlog. The organization has issued two bonds worth $450 million. A portion of these bonds is being used as part of the funding for the revitalization of Regent Park.

Public funding for revitalization
In addition to Toronto Community Housing’s investment in the revitalization, public funding for revitalization comes in the form of a 60 per cent share of infrastructure (like roads and sewers), and City of Toronto capital budgets for public facilities (like an aquatic centre, community centre and park).

Government funding for the Regent Park revitalization includes:

  • $3.3 million in Infrastructure Stimulus Funding for the Children and Youth Hub from the province of Ontario
  • $5.1 million from the governments of Ontario and Canada in Affordable Home Ownership Program funding
  • $11.7 million over 20 years for Provincial Affordability Payments to service debt incurred from the construction of the new affordable rental units
  • $19.5 million from the governments of Ontario and Canada in Affordable Housing Program funding (for phase one)
  • $16.4 million from the governments of Ontario and Canada in Investment in Affordable Housing Program funding (for phase two)
  • $24 million in Infrastructure Stimulus Funding for the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre from the governments of Ontario and Canada. (The Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre is also being supported by a fundraising campaign targeting $10 million in charitable donations.)
  • $62.6 million by the City of Toronto to pay for most of the City-owned community facilities and the City's 60 per cent share of municipal infrastructure over phases two to six.