Lawrence Heights is a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located north-west of central Toronto, in the district of North York. The neighbourhood is roughly bounded by Lawrence Avenue to the south, Yorkdale Road to the north, Varna Drive to the east and Dufferin Street to the west. It is part of the greater Yorkdale-Glen Park official Toronto neighbourhood.
Lawrence Heights has been referred to as the "Jungle" by residents and police alike soon after its completion in 1962. The Globe and Mail article "Toronto's new murder capital" gives insight into the crime in the area: "It's like you're in the jungle. It is like a war," says Linkx, a 20-year-old hip hop producer from nearby Rexdale who wears Crip colours and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The area is divided into two distinct subsections. The area bounded by Yorkdale Shopping Centre to the north, Lawrence Avenue to the south, Dufferin Street to the west and Highland Hill to the east. The neighbourhood is a post World War II development of bungalows and storey-and-a-half dwellings. As the frontage of these homes average 45 feet, the area has had significant changes as older houses are torn down and replaced by "Monster Homes" as the area's proximity to major city arteries and the downtown core make it lucrative to builders. The other housing area, which is east of Flemington Road, is short-term public housing. Because of the area's proximity to Downsview Airport, high-rise buildings were not originally permitted to be constructed in this area, and the majority of the housing is in low to mid-rise buildings.
According to Statistics Canada, the total population of Lawrence Heights (census tract 5350286.00) is 3685 persons. In the 2011 census, 1625 people reported to make under $30,000 while 750 people reported to make between $30,000 and $59,999. Only 335 people reported to make over $60,000. The average income for Lawrence Heights is $32,256 while the median income is $23,575. These figures point to substantial income inequality in the neighbourhood, as a higher proportion (approximately 60%) of respondents are at or below the average income, with most scoring closer to the mean income. Given that the low-income cut-off or the 'poverty line' in Canada is $23,298 (for an individual or families of two or more living in a city with a population over 500,000), Lawrence Heights can be considered a low-income neighbourhood. There are fears that the revitalization plan will push out low-income populations as similar plans have done elsewhere in Toronto.
Population percentage of selected visible minority groups, according to the 2011 National Household Survey for the Census tract:
Population for Census tract 5350287.01 in 2006 was 7272 but steadily increases to 7442 in 2011. According to the 2006 Census, the population in this Census Tract (Lawrence Heights) that are categorized under the Black visible minority group was 1590. In the 2011 National Household Survey, this group increased to 1875. This shows that there is a high increase population of Black minority group in this neighbourhood but also the highest population in comparison to other minorities. We see an increase in the Filipino group from 600 in 2006 census to 745 in 2011 NHS and also South Asian group increases from 140 to 300. Other visible minorities decrease in population from this neighbourhood especially Arab group, which goes from recording 55 in 2006 to zero in the 2011NHS. Overall the black population still remains to be the largest population of racial minorities in this census tract (Census 2011, Census 2006).
Public housing development
Lawrence Heights was the first large public housing project built by Metropolitan Toronto outside of the then-City of Toronto and is now managed under Toronto Community Housing. By 1955, 100 acres (40 ha) had been assembled by Metro. The project would have approximately 6,000 residents in 1,081 family units at a density of 12 families per acre, the largest public housing project to that date in Canada. When the project was announced, it sparked a strong opposition from the then North York Township. Citizens and elected officials threatened legal action to block the development. A compromise was worked out between Metro and North York whereby some of the units would be rented at market rates so that the project would not be exclusively very poor families.
Construction was completed by 1962. It consisted mainly of row houses and maisonettes with some small apartment buildings of less than 30 units each. A buffer of single-family dwellings was built between the project and the private sub-division to the east. An elementary school was part of the project. The elementary school filled up immediately and senior elementary students were sent to a neighbouring junior high. A controversy erupted over the use of the swimming pool at a neighbouring secondary school, whereby project students could only use the pool on one or two evenings per week. A community center was built in the mid-1960s, its $100,000 cost shared by North York and Metro without any support from the Ontario or the federal housing agency Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
In 2007, then city councillor Howard Moscoe unveiled a plan to revitalize Lawrence Heights. The plan proposes a demolition of all 1,208 units in the neighbourhood, as well as Lawrence Square, and they would be replaced by modern affordable units, market housing and retail/commercial streets, including a northward extension of Marlee Avenue. The plan was objected by nearly all surrounding neighbourhood residents due to overcrowding and the added traffic congestion it would bring.  As of late 2015, the low rise housing units at Ranee Avenue and Flemington Road (along with a vacant lot) are being demolished for a new condo project (Yorkdale Condos).
In 2015, the city kicked off a large redevelopment project in the area. The aim is to transform one of the city’s largest public housing communities into a mixed-income neighbourhood.
- Lawrence Heights Community Centre
- Lawrence Heights Community Health Centre
- John Polanyi Collegiate Institute - Formerly known as Sir Sandford Fleming Academy in the Bathurst Heights Secondary School facility which was once home to one of Toronto's elite basketball teams. Bathurst Heights was closed by the Toronto District School Board. The site was temporarily the home of Brebeuf College as Brebeuf underwent a school restoration. The school reopened in 2011 as JPCI when Sir Sanford Fleming was leased as the new (but temporary) home of the overcrowded Dante Alighieri Academy for its grade 9 students.
- Lawrence Square Shopping Centre
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Head Office Operations — 750 Lawrence Avenue West
- Yorkdale Shopping Centre — located just north of the community
- Hudson's Bay Company offices at 698 Lawrence Ave West behind Lawrence Square
- PACT Grow-to-Learn Urban Farm, located behind John Polanyi CI
- Dolo, rapper and member of the group Ghetto Concept
- Census, 2011
- National Household Survey, 2011
- NHS, 2011
- Statistics Canada, 2011
- Rose, pp. 69-72
- Rose, pp. 72-73
- Vincent, Donovan (May 11, 2007). "Massive Lawrence Heights overhaul planned". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- 'Massive' plan to revamp troubled Lawrence Heights
- Plan to re-create Lawrence Heights unveiled
- Rose, Albert (1972). Governing Metropolitan Toronto: A Social and Political Analysis 1953-1971. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02041-3.