Regent Park, and adjoining areas of the Old City's east end, were home to some of Toronto's historic slum districts in the early 1900s. Most residents of the area were poor and working-class people of British and Irish descent, along with smaller numbers of continental European Jewish and Balkan immigrants. Concern over crime and social problems in the area, as well as substandard housing, led to plans for affordable housing during the Second World War. These plans came to fruition soon after the end of the war, when the Regent Park North public housing project was approved in 1947. Families began to move into Regent Park North in 1949, but construction continued into the 1950s. The last families moved into Regent Park North in 1957. In subsequent years, more public housing units were built in Toronto, including Regent Park South, which was completed in 1960.
Although Regent Park had been designed to alleviate the area's substandard housing, crime, and social problems, these issues soon reemerged. By the mid-1960s, for example, there were complaints about the housing projects falling into a state of disrepair. Changes to the Canadian immigration system in the 1960s led to an influx of multicultural and multiethnic immigrants into the country. Some of these people, including immigrants from the Caribbean, China, and Southeast Asia, settled in Regent Park in the 1960s and 1970s, changing the ethnic and racial composition of the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the area continued to have a reputation of crime. In the first decade of the 21st century a new redevelopment plan for Regent Park was implemented. This plan called for Regent Park to be redeveloped as a mixed-income neighbourhood. Because of the area's proximity to the downtown core, it is potentially high value real estate.
According to the 2006 census for census tract 0030.00, Regent Park had a high visible minority population. Upwards to 1145 black people, 815 South Asian, 365 Chinese, and 100 Latin American people. In 2011, those numbers had changed. By the 2011 National Household Survey census, there were now 565 Black people, 495 South Asian, 325 Chinese and 105 Latin American people. It is important to recognize the significance of the decline of the visible minority populations in Regent Park from the 2006 census to the 2011 NHS census.
In Regent Park, the median in income in 2006 and 2011 was $40,000 to $49,999, although there was a decrease in this income range as compared to 2006. In comparison to Ontario, it is evident that the median income in Regent Park for 2006 and 2011 is higher than the median income in Ontario for 2006 and 2011. Although the population for Regent Park decreased in 2011 from 2006, both the average individual and family income increased. Despite this, the average and median incomes for the Regent Park were below the averages for the city of Toronto.
More than a half-century old, the Regent Park projects were aging rapidly and in need of costly repairs. The city government developed a plan to demolish and rebuild Regent Park over the next many years, with the first phase having started fall 2005. The addition of market units on site will double the number of units in Regent Park. Former street patterns will be restored and housing will be designed to reflect that of adjacent neighbourhoods (including Cabbagetown and Corktown), in order to end Regent Park's physical isolation from the rest of the city.
In support of the Clean and Beautiful City campaign by former Toronto Mayor David Miller, and to further the goal of renewing architecture in all Toronto Community Housing projects, an architectural competition was held for the design of the first apartment building in the complex. Toronto-based architectsAlliance was selected winner of the competition, with a modern glass point tower set on top of a red-brick podium structure in their proposal. While phase two had not yet been completed, the third stage of the revitalization plan, began in May 2014 which will include newer or updated facilities. The revitalization plan has five phases.
Regent Park was designed as a transitional community. It was to house people experiencing financial difficulties, or socioeconomic adjustment support. Most residents were on social assistance, and working residents paid rent proportional to their income (average total income of individuals in 2010 was $38,714). In the last two decades Regent Park has also become an immigrant community, as immigrants facing difficulties settling in Canada end up living there. Thus, the community is always viewed and administrated as a transitional community. This contributed to the concentration of a socially marginalized population, and various social ills of Regent Park. In particular, a transitional community failed to generate the awareness, interest, and commitment of its residents to invest in the development and sustainability of a higher quality of life.
Various community groups, including the Salvation Army, have been highly active in promoting a positive sense of community and community representation, and in pursuing a higher quality of life. Another such organization is Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre, which "uses media technology as a tool to employ young people, enhance resiliency, bridge information gaps, increase civic engagement, promote health and effect positive change." Pathways to Education is a program of the Regent Park Community Health Centre that promotes "individual health and the health of the community by addressing the two principal social determinants of health: education and income." Moreover, there are various cultural associations such as Regent Park Tamil Cultural Association, which aim to promote intra and inter cultural development and exchange, and to foster a healthier community.
Canada consists of 308 electoral districts, and Regent Park is located in the Toronto Centre riding. For city administration, each district is divided into two city wards. Regent Park is located in Ward 28.
In 2002 Toronto City Councillors recognized the need for increased tenant participation in the day-to-day management of housing. As a result, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) initiated the Tenant Participation System (TPS). The first election for TPS was held in 2003. The tenant representatives were volunteers representing a constant number of adjacent units. Overall the formal mechanism set up to give tenants voice in the day-to-day management of the Regent Park had a positive impact. For instance, lighting in Regent Park has improved as a direct result of the TPS representatives requests. However, the mechanism developed for the whole of Toronto’s various housing communities need to adopt to local conditions in order to meet the needs of the Regent Park residents more effectively.
Regent Park is served by several Toronto Transit Commission streetcar routes: 501, 505, 506; and by the "65 Parliament" bus. The streetcars provide quick access to the Yonge subway line.
The Don Valley Parkway is a major highway that runs to the east of the neighbourhood.
The Toronto Fire Services station 325 is Regent Park's fire station, and located at 475 Dundas Street East. The Toronto Police Service – 51 Division is responsible for the community. It was located in the community at 30 Regent Street, but it has been moved to nearby 51 Parliament Street.
Paramedics serving the Regent Park area are deployed from Toronto Emergency Medical Services Station 40. Station 40 is an Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support station staffed with Level II (Advanced Care Paramedic) and Level I (Primary Care Paramedic) crews located at 58 Richmond Street East.
The majority of the buildings in Regent Park are owned and operated by Toronto Community Housing, the public low-income housing administrator in Toronto. Regent Park is the "Community Housing Unit 27" managed by TCHC, and its manager is Ade Davies.
Most units are low rise apartment units bounded by Gerrard Street, Parliament Street, Dundas Street and River Street. The units are three-storey brick buildings with central balconies.
On the south side of Dundas Street the housing consists of five high-rise apartment towers with two-storey townhomes on the east and west sides.
Regent Park has a very young population. The Regent Park Child Care Centre at St Bartholomew's Church cares for infants and toddlers.
Regent Park is served by two public libraries. The Toronto Public Library Parliament branch is located at the corner of Gerrard and Parliament streets, and houses a special local history archive about Regent Park. The other nearby library is the Riverdale branch located at the junction of Gerrard Street and Broadview Avenue.
The Children's Book Bank is a small nonprofit that provides free books and literacy support, it is located at 350 Berkeley (at Gerrard).
There are two Toronto District School Board schools located within the neighbourhood:Nelson Mandela Park Public School on Shuter Street - first opened 1853 as Park Public School (current building built 1914-1917) and renamed in 2001 when Park Public School and Park Senior Public School merged after the late South African President Nelson Mandela; school serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8.
Regent Park/Duke of York Junior Public School on Regent Street - opened 1958 as Regent Park PS and merged with Duke of York PS (located at 14 Pembroke Street and now ecole publique Gabrielle Roy of the Conseil scolaire Viamonde) during the period of 1977-1980.
Regent Park is characterized by a high rate of poverty and unemployment, and is home to an immigrant and marginalized population. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, visible minorities make up 63% of the population of Regent Park. It experiences a higher rate of violence, crime, drug abuse, and social ills compared to many other Toronto communities.
In the city of Toronto, Regent Park has had a historical reputation for poverty and low-income households due the nature of the complex built to supply co-op housing developments. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, median income distribution for census tract 5354030.00 is $22,268, an increase by 52% since the 2006 median income of $14,696. Regent Park as proved by Statistics Canada is home to a lot of visible minorities who make up a huge percentage of the residents. Between the two census years, Statistics Canada shows that those in the low income bracket stayed relatively the same as 365 earned $20,000-$29,000 a year, while those that made $30,000 -$39,000 yearly increased by just 20 people and those who earned $40,000- $49,000 a year decline by 13.8%. (Statistics Canada, 2011). Almost half of the population in 2006 represented the $10–19,000 income bracket. In 2011 this dropped by 31% to represent 40%. This is understandable for Regent Park where a low-income level is a determining factor for residents to receive assistance through community housing. In terms of visible minority status, selectively taking into consideration the blacks, the Chinese and those who answered not a visible minority on the census, Statistics Canada shows that there was a relative decline in the amount of black residents in the area, though the Chinese residents slightly declined also ( statistics Canada, 2011). The revitalization of the Regent Park can be what accounts for the relative decline of visible minorities in the area over the years.Since the 2006 Census, generation demographics have been changing. In 2011, second generation represented 48% of the population – a 34% increase since 2006 when first generation status dominated this census tract representing 58%.
CT 5350030.00 has experienced a significant shift in income structure between the 2006 Census, and 2011 National Household Survey. In the 2006 Census, 61.1% of residents earned less than $20,000 annually. This data creates a left-skewed distribution that suggests a primarily low-income population. However, by the 2011 National Household Survey, such low-income residents decreased by a fifth to constitute 40.4% of residents. This was offset by a tripling of those earning greater than $60,000 to represent 25.6% of the population. This data creates a beta distribution which suggests a significant portion of residents making less than $20,000 but also a growing portion of residents making greater than $60,000. Consequently, two alternative perspectives can be derived from such data. Either the historical residents have experienced increasing incomes or, low-income residents can no longer afford housing in the neighbourhood and are experiencing displacement. Further research is required to determine better assess the changes in income structure and potential factors. Further research may include qualitative testimonials of residents, both past and present, to better understand social issues and the impact of the Regent Park Redevelopment Project.
As late as 2001 the relation between some residents and police was confrontational. Police face tremendous challenges in providing protection and security to the community.
Regent Park has attracted the attention of various social science scholars and media. Scholar and activist Dr. Sean Purdy has written his thesis based on his research about Regent Park. His paper "Ripped Off" By the System: Housing Policy, Poverty, and Territorial Stigmatization in Regent Park Housing Project, 1951–1991 provides valuable insights about Regent Park.
The recent Regent Park Revitalization Plan is also viewed and undertaken as a pilot Canadian social re-engineering effort. The federal and local governments view the plan as means to establish best practices and bench marks. Although such enthusiasm adds to the momentum of the revitalization plan, the Regent Park history warrants caution as not to repeat or reproduce the shortcomings of its past.
In addition, Norman Rowen, Program Manager of Pathways to Education, and researcher Kevin Gosine have published research that documents the success of Pathways in improving academic achievement and reducing the high school dropout rate among Regent Park youth.Purdy, Sean. "Framing Regent Park: the National Film Board of Canada and the Construction of Outcast Spaces in the Inner City, 1953 and 1994," Media, Culture and Society (UK), Vol.27, no.4 (July 2005).
Purdy, Sean. "By the People, For the People: Tenant Organizing in Toronto’s Regent Park Housing Project in the 1960s and 1970s," Journal of Urban History, Vol.30, no.4 (May 2004), 519-548.
Rowen, Norman and Kevin Gosine. "Support that Matters: A Community-Based Response to the Challenge of Promoting Academic Achievement Among Impoverished Youth," in B.J. McMahon and D.E. Armstrong (Eds), Inclusion in Urban Educational Environments: Addressing Issues of Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing (2006), 277-299.
Luisa Veronis. "Exploring the Margin: The Borders between Regent Park and Cabbagetown"
Albert Rose. 1958. Regent Park: A Study in Slum Clearance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
"Return to Regent Park" by the National Film Board of Canada
Invisible City by Hubert Davis
" A Way Out" by Christene Browne
"Farwell Oak Street" by the National Film Board of Canada
Trevor Daley, professional hockey player
Glen Metropolit, professional hockey player
Point Blank, hip hop group