The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and Toronto Public Health are pleased to release Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods: A Healthy Toronto by Design Report.

As part of the ongoing work related to Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, this report was commissioned by Toronto Public Health in 2011 to examine design tools for improved community health outcomes in Toronto’s hundreds of apartment neighbourhoods.

As has been demonstrated in numerous previous studies, growing poverty is linked to poor health outcomes in Toronto’s inner suburbs, particularly its apartment neighbourhoods. This new study illustrates how public health objectives can be achieved through strategies specific to the unique urban geography and demographics of apartment neighbourhoods.

To assess the opportunities of apartment neighbourhoods, this report utilizes the following themes, developed from the Toronto Public Health report Healthy Toronto by Design (2011), and applies them to the apartment neighbourhood context:

  1. Natural Environment
  2. Built Environment
  3. Transportation
  4. Housing
  5. Income and Employment
  6. Education
  7. Food Security
  8. Health Services

Using these health themes, thirty-one strategies and design opportunities have been developed. Many of these strategies are relatively straightforward, others more complicated. In the hands of a range of stakeholders, from residents and property owners to City staff, they provide strategic direction for the investment and action required to build better served, healthier, and more complete communities moving forward.

The report also assesses the relationship of each strategy to current policies in the Toronto Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws. This assessment clearly shows which strategies can be achieved in the short term and which policy barriers need to be addressed in the long term to achieve a full range of health benefits.

These policy barriers are addressed in more detail in a parallel United Way Toronto report entitled Strong Neighbourhoods and Complete Communities: A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods.


Click on any of the titles, sections, or themes below to download the relevant section of the report as a PDF file.

1.0: Introduction
1.2: Context: Challenges and Opportunities in Apartment Neighbourhoods

The following are a series of strategies related to health themes in achieving more healthy and well-served communities in apartment neighbourhoods throughout Toronto. A summary analysis of each of these strategies is provided in a summary chart that can be downloaded here.

Theme 1: Natural Environment

  • 1.1 Improve Microclimate and Outdoor Comfort
  • 1.2 Provide Access to Green Space, Parks and Natural Areas
  • 1.3 Reduce Negative Impacts to Air and Water Quality

Theme 2: Built Environment

  • 2.1 Improve Opportunities for Gathering
  • 2.2 Improve Sense of Security and Lighting
  • 2.3 Reduce Hazards such as Traffic Blind Spots
  • 2.4 Animate Spaces

Theme 3: Transportation

  • 3.1 Remove Physical Barriers to Active Transportation
  • 3.2 Integrate Transit stops and Stations with Apartment Towers
  • 3.3 Improve Cycling Networks and Infrastructure
  • 3.4 Enable Access to ‘Green Fleet’ Carshare Programs
  • 3.5 Reduce Parking Requirements to Allow Conversion to Alternative Uses

Theme 4: Housing

  • 4.1 Provide Amenities to Support Diverse Households in High-rise Living
  • 4.2 Adapt units for Growing Families and Changing Households
  • 4.3 Build Resident Social Capital through Organizations and Associations
  • 4.4 Expand Housing Choice, New Tenure Options
  • 4.5 Expand Housing Choice, Infill Housing

Theme 5: Income, Employment and Opportunities

  • 5.1 Introduce Outdoor Vending in Apartment Neighbourhood Open Spaces
  • 5.2 Allow for Home-Based Businesses
  • 5.3 Incubate Local Enterprise Through Support and Training Services
  • 5.4 Introduce or Expand Ground Floor Retail

Theme 6: Education and Learning

  • 6.1 Introduce extra-curricular and education for children and youth
  • 6.2 Introduce Newcomer Settlement Support and Adult Education Programs
  • 6.3 Introduce Preschool and Family Resource Services

Theme 7: Food Security

  • 7.1 Provide Facilities for Collective Cooking
  • 7.2 Introduce Outdoor Fresh Food Markets
  • 7.3 Expand or Introduce Green Grocers
  • 7.4 Introduce Community Gardens / Urban Agriculture

Theme 8: Community Health

  • 8.1 Promote Public Health Education
  • 8.2 Provide Multi-Purpose Health Services Clinics
  • 8.3 Provide Programs and Facilities for Physical Fitness




Appendix A
Visualizations: Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods

The following diagrams illustrate the use of various strategies outlined in this report to form more healthy and well-served communities.
Diagram 1: Existing Condition

Diagram 2: Small Scale Scenario

Diagram 3: Intermediate Scale Scenario

Diagram 4: Larger Scale Scenario

Appendix B
Mapping Apartment Neighbourhoods and Health Indicators

The following series of maps outlines the location of apartment neighbourhoods in Toronto with various urban systems and geographically based health indicators

Map 1: Post-War Apartment Tower Distribution Across Toronto + Urban Transportation Systems

Map 2: Post-War Apartment Towers + Investment Areas Identified in Toronto’s Official Plan

Map 3: Post-War Apartment Towers and Areas of Low-Income Across Toronto

Map 4: Post-War Apartment Towers + Areas of Growing Wealth,Growing Poverty, and Priority Investment Neighbourhoods

Map 5: Post-War Apartment Towers + Areas of High Incidence of Diabetes Across Toronto

Map 6: Post-War Apartment Towers + Areas of High Poverty and Low Walkability Across Toronto

Map 7: Post-War Apartment Towers + Toronto’s Park Systems and Natural Conservation Areas

Graeme Stewart, Jason Thorne, George Martin, Brendan Stewart, Kim Perrotta, Shawn Chirrey, Michael McClelland, and Monica Campbell.

We acknowledge the important foundational work by the United Way Toronto through its report Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty which documented the growing trend of increased concentrations of poverty in Toronto’s inner suburbs and particularly high-rise rental apartment communities. We value the collaboration with the United Way on its subsequent work on zoning reform in Apartment Neighbourhoods, a project that complements TPH’s Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods initiative.

We thank the following people who provided support, advice and assistance with the preparation of this report:

_ Joe D’Abramo, Jane Welsh and Paul Bain, City of Toronto Planning
_ Eleanor McAteer and Elise Hug, City of Toronto Tower Renewal Office
_ Susan McIsaac, Michelynn Lafleche , Jamie Robinson and Pedro Barata, United Way Toronto
_ Amy Norris, Bryan Bowen and Max Berg, ERA Architects / planningAlliance / Centre for Urban Growth & Renewal
_ Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health
_ Brian Cook, Sudha Sabanadesan, Ronald Macfarlane, Jennifer Veenboer, and Barbara Emanuel, Toronto Public Health

All images and maps by the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal including international photographs by Brendan Stewart or Graeme Stewart, unless otherwise noted. Date in image caption the year the photo was taken. Special thanks to the following photographers, artists and organizations for contributing their work:

_ Paul Dowsett, Sustainable T.O
_ at The National Film Board of Canada
_ Jane Farrow
_ Jesse Colin Jackson
_ William MacIvor
_ Brendan Martin
_ Holly Pagnacco
_ Recipe for Community – St James Town
_ Tower Renewal Office (TRO) City of Toronto


Healthy Toronto By Design was released by Toronto Public Health in October 2011 and was the first in a series of reports on how local communities shape the health of their residents. The report noted that healthy cities are cities that are liveable, prosperous and sustainable. They are cities with high quality built and natural environments, public transit, housing, culture, education, food and health care. Healthy cities don’t just happen. They result from creative vision, strategic decision-making and thoughtful implementation that respects the needs and challenges of all residents. They happen by design – through intentional investment and provision of infrastructure, programs and services with health in mind.

This report is one of a series which explore what makes a healthy city. Visit Toronto Public Health’s website at for a list of reports in the series. Some of the topic areas in the series include the following:

  • Toward Healthier Apartment Neighbourhoods – this report synthesizes zoning barriers and opportunities to promote healthy neighbourhoods, particularly in clusters of residential apartment towers in low income areas and inner suburbs of Toronto.

    The Walkable City – this report summarizes the findings of a Residential Preferences Survey that gauges public demand for walkable versus more auto-oriented neighbourhoods, and links this information with travel choices, physical activity levels and body weight.

  • Inventory of Best Practices – this report showcases examples of innovative practices and policies across city government in Toronto that promote healthy built environments.
  • Active Transportation and Health – this report synthesizes evidence on health benefits and risks associated with walking, cycling and physical activity related to the use of public transit, as well as economic assessments and specific strategies to increase the use and safety of active transportation in Toronto.
  • Health Impact Assessment Software Tool – a software tool has been developed to assist policy and decision-makers understand how different approaches to neighbourhood design might impact health-related outcomes such as physical activity levels, body weight and greenhouse gas emissions. A technical report synthesizes information on the development of the tool and results of pilot testing.