The high cost of housing in Metro Vancouver is often presented in the context of sky-high prices for real estate, but protests in the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby this weekend sought to raise awareness of the effects of the housing crisis on people for whom purchasing real estate isn’t even a consideration.

On Saturday, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and the International League of People's Struggle held a protest in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside calling for government action on housing for the more than 1,800 homeless people living in the city.

At almost the same time, in Burnaby, activists and former residents of an apartment building near the Metrotown shopping centre began occupying the building.

The occupiers plan to stay in the apartment complex for as long as it takes to get the City of Burnaby to address their demands for an end to the practice of “demovictions” - where renters in older buildings are forced to move out to make room for new condominium towers.

Those participating in the occupation say that nearly 500 people have been forced out of the apartment complex in the 5000-block of Imperial Street, which will be demolished and redeveloped under the city's Downtown Metrotown plan.

“The main message is that the policy of the City of Burnaby to demovict people from their homes and throw people out from their communities is criminal,” said Dave Eiewert, one of the protesters occupying the building.

“We need to have a moratorium on demovictions until a plan is in place that will preserve affordable housing and make sure there’s affordable housing for people who live in the neighourhood.”

Eiewert said the Alliance Against Development, the group behind the demoviction occupation, has been trying to get the City of Burnaby to respond to its concerns for more than a year, but the city has been ignoring them.

“This is their doing,” said protest organizer Kaye Bedford of the city. “We actually blame the developers, but the developers cannot develop in a lot without the City of Burnaby and council saying, ‘Yes, you can develop that land.’”

The group has four demands: That the city stop demovictions, find housing for people who have been displaced, dedicate more land for social housing, and replace the Downtown Metrotown plan with one developed by community members.

“The city is pushing ahead with a plan that will mean even more displacement - thousands of people being displaced - and we just find this is completely outrageous,” Eiewert said.

The occupiers say they will not leave the property until their demands are met.

Late Saturday night, Alliance Against Displacement issued a press release alleging that RCMP officers had threatened to arrest the occupiers.

Burnaby RCMP had not responded to requests for comment as of 2 p.m. Sunday.

With files from the Canadian Press