RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California city hit hard by the housing crisis took another step toward using its powers of eminent domain to stave off foreclosures.

The Richmond City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to develop rules for the program, which would seize private mortgages in danger of default and then lower the amount homeowners owe. The city hasn’t formally adopted the plan. The council is one vote short of the five votes needed for approval.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to prioritize neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. It also instructed city staff to ask banks to voluntarily cut the principal on mortgages.

Opponents argue the eminent domain plan would disrupt the country’s mortgage industry.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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