St. James Town Low-cost high-rises for low-income families

Up until the 1960s, parts of St. James Town made up pretty desirable Toronto neighbourhoods for the city's middle class, while other areas were simply streets of completely derelict homes housing multiple families in rat-infested conditions. So the municipal government got the idea that skyscraper condo towers would result in improvements, and rezoned. Instead, the neighbourhood spun into greater decline and rather than the government changing tack, more towers continued to pop up, creating the current most densely populated community in all of Canada, as well as one of the poorest. In excess of 25,000 people live in 19 apartment towers in St. James Town today, the majority of whom are new immigrants living on low income. The lack of nearby services has contributed to keeping the neighbourhood one of the least desirable in the city, as has the run-down state of the buildings. For renters looking for a bargain, a few of the towers have apartments for rent at market prices, while others post rents geared to income.

Who Lives Here

Immigrants from the Philippines, China and South Asia, mainly. Most residents are families with kids in school and very few seniors live in the high rises. The average household income, a concerning $30,000.

Perfect for…

Newcomers to Canada or even to Toronto looking for affordable rent in an apartment close to downtown.

Not-so-perfect for…

Everyone else. Crime, noise and shoddy construction with sub-par essential services like water and electricity are realities of life in some of the buildings in St. James Town. And with few services like grocery stores, restaurants and other shops on street level, getting errands accomplished and living the lifestyle you want might prove a challenge.

Life and Style

With limited options in terms of restaurants, cafes, parks and recreation, the lifestyle around St. James Town is centred around the home. Low incomes also contribute to the home-centric way of life. Families host little get-togethers with neighbours and friends after work and on the weekends and when possible, head downtown or into nearby Cabbagetown or Church and Wellesley for a change of scenery.

Housing Market

Despite conditions that border on uninhabitable in many of the St. James Town apartment towers, market rents in the neighbourhood aren't as low as you might expect. Main reasons for this are likely proximity to downtown and to trendy Cabbagetown, which has become almost unaffordable to renters. Renters looking to live in St. James Town can find apartments for rent for hundreds of dollars less than the neighbourhood averages, as well as nice rentals that go for hundreds more.

Avg. rent by housing type and size

Studio/Bachelor: $945
1-bedroom: $1,230
2-bedroom: $1,830
3-bedroom: $2,205
Avg. rent compared to other Toronto neighbourhoods
St. James Town is 15% lower than TO average

Typical housing type

Cheap high-rise apartments


Rose Avenue Public School is the only school within the borders of St. James Town, and is where most of the kids who live in the surrounding towers attend calss. There are, however, a couple of other public schools nearby, as well as a Catholic school and a private academy called Toronto New School. Attached to Rose Avenue School is a community recreation centre with a gym and meeting rooms. And while the so-called green spaces at the bases of the apartment buildings can barely be called parks, the neighbourhood is close to several parks.