'What Am I Supposed to Do?'

Photo: Fighting foreclosure: Rochelle Gear confident shell see money from new $108 million settlement between Countrywide, BofA and FTCABC News
Countrywide home loan borrower Rochelle Gear.

Rochelle Gear is one of millions of Americans struggling to pay a mortgage she cannot afford as America's housing market faces a tide of foreclosures.

"My bills are stacking up higher, my phone has been cut off. You know I can't live like that," Gear told ABC News' Betsy Stark.

Two years ago the Atlanta hairstylist bought a condo with a 10.5 percent adjustable rate mortgage from Countrywide Financial, one of several big lenders that face an outcry of criticism for making millions of risky loans.

Gear knew the monthly payments on her home would be a stretch on her $30,000 annual income but she said Countrywide assured her she could soon refinance at a lower rate.

Now she's two months in arrears and worried about losing her home.

She said she keeps asking them to refinance her loan and make it market value, but has received "no phone calls."

"What am I supposed to do?" Gear asked.

Housing Market Fueled Recession?

As 3 million adjustable rate mortgages reset over the next year and a half, it won't just be those homeowners feeling the pain. The more people like Gear spend on their mortgages, the less they have to spend on everything else.

And the problem only gets worse if she loses her home, as Sharon La Pierre did last year. "Ten days before Christmas I was served with foreclosure papers that I would lose my house," she said, fighting back tears.

And the situation is not expected to improve -- 760,000 Americans are expected to lose their homes this year and another 940,000 in 2008 according to Moody's Economy.com.

As all those vacant homes hit the market, home prices will fall for everyone. In Washington today, consumer advocates said lenders created this problem and they need to solve it.

"No one can afford a 10 or 12 or 14 percent interest rate for a long time … the lenders knew this was a train wreck ready to happen," said Bruce Marks, CEO of Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

The issue now is how to keep people in their homes and the country out of recession. Milwaukee homeowner Jimmy Gaillard was lucky, as a nonprofit homeowners' group is refinancing his crippling adjustable rate mortgage at a manageable fixed rate.

"That's going to feel awful good in a little while. Start getting some of those bills taken care of again, and start really living again and not just surviving," Gaillard said.

A number of bailout plans are now starting to circulate to keep this mortgage crisis from becoming an economic calamity.

One proposal is a national mortgage refinancing corporation, funded by the government, that would keep people in their houses at affordable rates.