By Andrew Edwards
Created: 08/16/2012 11:44:52 AM PDT

The special agency that helped start a national debate over a controversial eminent domain-for-mortgages plan aimed at helping San Bernardino County’s underwater homeowners soon will be able to accept formal proposals.

The agency’s board voted on Thursday to direct staffers to draft a request for proposals aimed at creating some policy that would help homeowners whose mortgage debt exceeds the market value of their home.

The broadly worded order does not include the phrase “eminent domain,” and county CEO Greg Devereaux, who also chairs the special agency, sought to allay concerns that officials already have decided that eminent domain is the way to go.

“We’re not here to look for any one approach,” he said. “We’re here to look for ideas.”

The special agency’s official name is Homeownership Protection Program Joint Powers Authority. It consists of the county, Ontario and Fontana.

Although Thursday wasn’t the first time Devereaux has said the agency hasn’t settled on eminent domain, opponents of that idea dominated the public comment portions at Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m 110 percent against the county’s effort to use eminent domain,” said Brenda Meyer of Cozy Cabins Realty in Crestline.

Devereaux said in response to her concerns that taxpayer dollars weren’t paying for opinion polling and that the county did not commission any phone surveys on the issue.

The eminent domain proposal comes from San Francisco investment firm Mortgage Resolution Partners.

The company’s founders say they can raise private dollars to help government agencies use eminent domain to buy mortgages that have been packaged into private-label mortgage backed securities.

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