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NDP MLA David Eby flips through a report as he calls on the provincial government to investigate alleged fraudulent and insider trading practices of some realtors in Metro Vancouver during a press conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday, February 8, 2016.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

It's not just Vancouver residents who are angry and frustrated about increasingly out-of-control housing costs, says an NDP MLA leading the charge on the issue.

The much bigger scope of the problem will be obvious, David Eby says, when people come out to B.C. housing forums he's organizing for Victoria, Maple Ridge, Surrey and elsewhere that are similar to the one held in Vancouver this week.

"This is a regionwide affordability crisis we're facing," said Mr. Eby, whose event for his Vancouver-Point Grey riding Wednesday drew about 600 residents concerned about everything from the lack of rentals to money laundering that is allowing foreign speculators to drive up local housing costs.

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"It's the number one issue in Metro," he said.

NDP Leader John Horgan, clearly seeing this as a hot-button issue where his party could offer a markedly different approach from the B.C. Liberals, introduced two bills related to real estate in the legislature on Thursday.

But Mr. Eby said those bills – one a proposal to tax vacant homes, another to close loopholes that are used by companies operating as trusts and to stop real estate agents from assigning properties to avoid taxes – are just a small part of what needs to be done to make the region's housing market workable for local residents again.

He would like to see federal immigration policy changed to eliminate programs that grant resident status to people with money.

"You shouldn't be able to buy your way to the front of the line."

He would also like the province to initiate an inquiry into housing, as Britain and Australia have done, to develop the wide range of solutions that will be needed to make housing more affordable in a large market like Vancouver's.

Mr. Eby's first housing forum on Wednesday highlighted the wide range of housing problems people are experiencing and what their suspicions are about the causes.

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A half dozen said they or their friends are on the verge of being driven from Vancouver because of the high prices, adding that it will be a loss for the city when they lose their nurses, engineers and more.

Erik Wiik, who also lives in a Yaletown condo with his engineer wife and two children, said they feel stuck in the 900-square-foot condo, with no possibility of being able to afford anything larger.

"We're trapped where we are," said Mr. Wiik, while acknowledging that he was one of the lucky ones, since others can't even afford anything small.

He said one remedy would be to allow more density throughout the city.

Jennifer Lloyd, a researcher who lives in the West End with her husband and two children, said they've turned their master bathroom into the bedroom for the youngest because they're so crowded.

Ms. Lloyd said her family has been in Vancouver a long time and she has three grandparents buried in the North Vancouver cemetery. But she feels like there are no options for her current family to find something both livable and affordable.

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"I want to stay," she said. "Please give us that chance."

Some people, like Burnaby Councillor Nick Volkow, talked about what they saw as the underlying cause.

"It is international money laundering that has come in," said Mr. Volkow, demanding to know why the RCMP, the Canada Revenue Agency and other authorities haven't done more.

There were also references throughout the night to houses on the west side left vacant, offshore investment and the immigrant investor programs that people said have made Vancouver a hot spot for foreigners parking their money.

"The homes we so desperately need are being used as piggy banks," said software engineer Justin Fung.

Others lower down the housing ladder also talked about their problems.

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Chantelle Batam, 19, and in a wheelchair, said she's almost out of time to find a place to rent. She got six months in transitional housing after coming out of G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre. If she doesn't find anything, she said, her only choice is to put her belongings in boxes and go to a shelter.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman, responding to Mr. Eby and Mr. Horgan on Thursday, said the government is starting to collect data on foreign investment and it is looking at tax-avoidance issues.

But he said that Vancouver's "micro-market" has a unique problem and he repeated an accusation he has made in the past, saying that Vancouver city hall makes housing more expensive because of the unusual amount of time and additional fees required for every project.

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