Public Housing Redevelopment With Private Funding – Toronto Case

small church building with windows boarded up
Cross-subsidizing housing improvements always come at a price. In order to gain rebuilt social housing in Regent Park, Toronto, a former church/drop-in centre was lost to the community. Was it worth it? Such answers are always hard to determine.

Do you recognize the building pictured above? If so, you will have some history with the redevelopment of Regent Park, a large public housing project in Toronto. At the turn of the century, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which owned Regent Park, led a process of tearing down all of the original homes on the site. In their place, new buildings were constructed.

The redeveloped Regent Park holds more homes than were there in the public housing days. Many of the new homes are condominiums that have been sold to private owners.

In redeveloping Regent Park, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation was solving a problem: decades of minimal repairs and maintenance. TCHC had limited ability to raise funds1. Raising capital to redevelop the site required working with partners that could borrow funds.

The redevelopment at Regent Park replaced every public housing housing unit that was demolished. The sale of new condo units paid to replace the public housing units that were torn down.

This process is referred to as ‘cross-subsidy.’ It is one of the tools available to governments that are interested in maintaining and increasing the supply of housing that is affordable for people with low incomes.

There are many concerns to be faced when planning a redevelopment. For example, in Regent Park, there was the the building in the picture above. The building was on a plot of land that was surrounded by the Regent Park public housing that was going to be demolished as part of the cross-subsidy program.

The property and the building were owned by the United Church and had been part of the Church’s outreach ministry. For decades, the building had housed a drop-in centre, support services for local residents (housed and unhoused), and worship services. It was worn down by years of heavy use. Read more at the United Church of Canada Archives: Toronto Christian Resource Centre

The United Church’s outreach team had had a longstanding vision to replace the existing building with a new drop-in and subsidized housing. Funding had been an insurmountable barrier. Some of the cross-subsidy funding from the redevelopment of Regent Park enabled the Church to achieve its vision. The existing building was replaced with a new drop-in centre, a new space to provide support services, and 87 units of deeply affordable housing.

Cross-subsidy funding also meant replacing a community where everyone had a very low income with one with a range of incomes. Income mix was generally considered to be a good thing at the time of the Regent Park redevelopment, but there weren’t a lot of examples to study. For long time residents who moved back to Regent Park, getting along with their new neighbours was a bumpy road 2

Is ‘cross-subsidy’ all that it’s cracked up to be? Regent Park is certainly a firm ‘maybe.’ Our next post will look at at more recent cross-subsidy housing redevelopments, this time in London, England.


  1. This was not because of organizational negligence, but rather due to the legislation and regulations that governed TCHC’s operations.
  2. Try: Strategies That Erode Housing Security: Part I – Social Mix