Ant Anstead Talks New Show, Life As a Co-Parent, and Creating a 'Community' After Divorce

The Celebrity IOU: Joyride star has had a tumultuous year — now, he's telling PEOPLE why all the ups and downs have been worth it

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Photo: Rod Foster

After a 2020 full of change and heartbreak, Ant Anstead is starting over with a new show, a new home and a new romance.

In the first half of 2021, the British TV host, 42, finalized his divorce from HGTV star Christina Haack — with whom he shares son Hudson, 2 — after less than two years of marriage, moved into a fixer-upper bachelor pad in Laguna Beach, Calif., and started working on several new TV projects. The first, Celebrity IOU: Joy Ride, a spin-off of Drew and Jonathan Scott's Celebrity: IOU home renovation series, premiered on Discovery+ in August.

Anstead and his co-host Cristy Lee team up with stars including Octavia Spencer and James Marsden to restore vintage cars as a surprise for deserving friends and family. "It's such a lovely series because it has all the aspects you'd like from a show," Anstead tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue.

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Rod Foster

"There's the build element, which really satisfies the car fan. There's the heart and soul element, which satisfies human beings. And then there's the celebrity element, which gives people an opportunity to get a little insight into these otherwise incredibly private people," he explains.

Celebrity IOU: Joyride Trailer

Joyride is also where Anstead met his now-girlfriend, Renée Zellweger, 52, who appeared on the series' premiere. The pair have become close since meeting on set in June, but have kept their romance low-key. "Renée and my relationship is something that's really private," Anstead says. "It's really early in our relationship and I don't want to put any pressure on that."

ant anstead and renee zellweger
Ant Anstead/Instagram

They have been photographed spending time together with Hudson at home, walking along the beach and attending open-air church services. (Anstead also has two older kids, daughter Amelie, 17, and son Archie, 15, from his first marriage.) Making sure Hudson is happy and healthy is Anstead's top priority, he says, which is why co-parenting with Haack — who also shares daughter Taylor, 10, and son Brayden, 6, with her ex Tarek El Moussa — is incredibly important to him.

RELATED VIDEO: Renée Zellweger Supports Ant Anstead During 'Supercar' Gala for First Public Event as a Couple

"I'm a big supporter of modern-day parenting," he says of sharing custody with Haack. "You can only ever look back and judge yourself and how you dealt with your half. There are so many co-parents out there that allow emotions, bitterness, anger and jealousy to control them. And ultimately all of that stuff means nothing. I'm not going to be ashamed. I'm going to look back and say, 'I really handled my half well.'"

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Rod Foster

Anstead says he's worked to surround himself and Hudson with people who challenge him to be better and think bigger, especially in his new home of Laguna Beach.

After 10 months of living in a rental studio apartment following his split from Haack, when he left the home they shared together in Newport Beach, Anstead got the keys to what he calls his "Temple House" after a months-long house hunt.

Ant Anstead
Courtesy of Ant Anstead

Anstead and Hudson moved into the hillside beach house during the last week of May, and it quickly became their happy place.

"Hudson and I really feel at home here. It really is a sanctuary," Anstead says of the 1929 fixer-upper, which he's been working with a local architect to slowly renovate.

"I had an early idea of what I wanted to do to the space, but now that I've lived in it for a few months, I changed it again," he admits. "But it's going to be really lovely when it's done. One of the things that really drew me to the Temple Home is it's a heritage house. It's an old house, and I love old things. I think that comes across in the cars that I do, as well."

celebs at home Ant Anstead
Ant Anstead/Instagram

In the meantime, he and Hudson have been settling in and taking in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The back porch, which overlooks the water, is one of their favorite areas in the home, and is where Hudson loves to water the plants in the garden every night before bed.

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Rod Foster

"Hudson absolutely loves this place. You can tell when a child's at home, because they treat it like their space," the father of three says. "He knows where his snack drawer is. He knows where his cups live, his plates live. He sweeps the floor and puts his washing away. He has his favorite part on the sofa. He has his favorite blanket. So yeah, Hudson is perfectly at home here."

When they're not hanging at home, Anstead and Hudson are typically at the beach, often with friends they met in the neighborhood.

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Rod Foster

Back in March, Anstead told PEOPLE that he had made it his New Year's resolution to "make friends with people of substance," and had joined the Laguna Beach Parents Club in order to do so.

"I spent six months really healing and recovering and working on myself," he said at the time. "I feel like I've really made Laguna my home, and I've got this overwhelming urge now to sort of make friends."

Ant Anstead Exclusive Photos
Rod Foster

Now, he says, he's done just that.

"I'm very good at spotting the people that haven't got substance now — I've got this kind of radar on me now, it beeps," he jokes. "So yeah, I've been really good. I'm surrounded by lovely people that have big hearts and are in it for the right reason."

"I'm really proud of my community that I've created, particularly in Laguna," he adds. "I've got some really good friends and I'm very lucky."

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