UPDATE 1-British Columbia takes aim at housing speculation

(Recasts first sentence with planned crackdown on real estate speculators, adds details on housing strategy, minister's comment)

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Feb 20 (Reuters) - British Columbia moved on Tuesday to crack down on real estate speculators, expanding its foreign buyer tax and introducing a new speculation tax, as part of a wide-ranging strategy to cool housing prices in Canada's most expensive real estate market.

The left-leaning New Democratic (NDP) government, under pressure to address skyrocketing home prices and soaring rents, particularly in the Vancouver area, unveiled a 30-point housing plan as part of its first full budget.

It also projected a surplus of C$219 million in fiscal 2018/19, as the province posted its sixth consecutive balanced budget.

"We can't end the housing crisis overnight, but we can plan now for the future," British Columbia Finance Minister Carole James told reporters of the housing plan. "Taken together, these steps will return a sense of fairness to the real estate market."

The NDP said Vancouver's foreign buyer tax, introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2016, will be increased to 20 percent from 15 percent, and expanded to include numerous other cities.

The government also announced an annual speculation tax on the assessed value of homes in urban areas, launching this year at 0.5 percent, rising to 2 percent in 2019, with exemptions for most principal residences and long-term rental units.

The province's surplus is projected at C$281 million in 2019-20 and C$284 million in 2020-21, the government said. The revised surplus for 2017-18 is now seen at C$151 million, down from the previous forecast of C$190 million due to losses at provincial auto insurer ICBC. ($1 = 1.2645 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Julie Gordon and Nicole Mordant in Victoria, B.C.; Editing by Matthew Lewis)