The epidemic of home foreclosures has been made far worse than necessary due to the banks' unwillingness to work with homeowners. Although Congress has passed numerous laws to force the banks to assist homeowners, the banks have found ways not to comply. The banks also brazenly break other laws to further their profits at the expense of homeowners, most recently by falsifying interest rates in the LIBOR scandal.
Regular middle class Americans everywhere have unjustly lost their homes to foreclosure. They ended up in homes they could not sell due to the Federal Reserve Board, not their own actions. The Fed manipulates interest rates in order to grow or shrink the economy. It kept rates artificially low several years ago for a lengthy period of time. At the same time, Congress relaxed the laws on lending. The Obama administration ordered banks to lend to risky borrowers or face lawsuits. Many people with poor credit bought homes who were clearly risky borrowers. A large number were issued subprime loans they could not afford, ensuring their default.
Once the defaults began in 2007, the abandoned homes flooded the housing market, driving down home values for everyone. This left most homeowners unable to sell their homes, since most homeowners have a sizable mortgage. Someone who bought a home with a mortgage for $200,000 saw the value of their home dip to as low as half of that. Upside down, there is no way for someone to sell their home without owing the bank a considerable amount.
As people began losing their jobs due to the recession, they could not downsize to a smaller house or apartment because of being upside down on their mortgages. Many tried to short sale their homes, in the hopes of walking away without owing anything. In order to force the banks to accept a short sale, homeowners had to play chicken and stop paying their mortgages. Other homeowners stopped paying their mortgages in hopes of getting a loan modification, relying upon laws that were passed requiring banks to work with homeowners on loan modifications.