Meet Willow Tufano, age 14: Lady Gaga fan, animal lover, landlord.
In 2005, when Willow was 7, the housing market was booming. Home prices in some Florida neighborhoods nearly doubled from one month to the next. Her family moved into a big house; her mom became a real estate agent.
But as Willow moved from childhood to adolescence, the market turned, and the neighborhood emptied out. "Everyone is getting foreclosed on here," she says.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve has shrugged off warnings and let the largest U.S. financial firms pay tens of billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders, instead of putting aside money as capital in case a new financial crisis hits.
Many experts say reducing mortgage principal can help troubled homeowners stay in their homes. But two of the nation's largest mortgage holders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have not signed on to the idea.
Despite some green shoots in the economy, the housing sector remains weak. With 11 million Americans still underwater on their mortgages, some housing experts believe it's time for more dramatic solutions.
The idea of reducing the principal on the loans of underwater homeowners used to be a fringe concept, embraced by a few outliers. Today, many policymakers believe principal reduction is necessary to keep some troubled homeowners afloat.
But so far, the nation's biggest mortgage holders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, haven't embraced the idea.