More than a million people live in highrise apartment towers in the Toronto region.

Almost 2,000 of the drab and dreary concrete monoliths — most built in the modernist era of the 1960s and 70s — are scattered across the Greater Golden Horseshoe: from Niagara to Waterloo to Barrie to Peterborough. They are clustered here more than anywhere else in North America, yet until recently, they have been largely ignored by planners and politicians.

But they are also places of great opportunity. The combination of population density and poorly used space offer enormous potential.

Or, as the authors of a new report put it, “Tower neighbourhoods provide a large geography for action.”

Released today, the report takes an inventory of the region’s ubiquitous postwar towers — built between 1945 and 1984 and standing at least eight storeys high — and also connects the dots to illustrate how the towers, often resented as a blight on the skyline, could lead a number of provincial and municipal initiatives, from poverty reduction to cutting emissions.

“The interesting thing about tower renewal is that it does touch upon so many different things and there are so many actions than can come out of it,” said Graeme Stewart, one of the report’s authors. “That’s when the light bulb went off for the province.”

Ontario’s Growth Secretariat commissioned Stewart, of E.R.A. Architects, along with Jason Thorne of planningAlliance and the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto to create the report.

Their research takes the work of 2008’s groundbreaking study of Toronto’s towers — which was so emphatically championed by former mayor David Miller that it became known as the Mayor’s Tower Renewal — and expands it to the entire area.

“The kinds of things Toronto has been looking at since this came out we’re hoping other municipalities will start to look at,” Stewart said.

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