While the five giant mortgage firms signed a landmark $25 billion mortgage settlement last year, the real relief did not fulfill most borrowers expectations. Just 20% of the aid dished out under the settlement covered forgiveness of first-mortgage principal. Per the Los Angeles Times

"We all wish there had been more principal reduction, which is what is most helpful in keeping people in homes," said Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a 300-member alliance that lobbies on behalf of low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Still, Stein said, the program set a good precedent, demonstrating that debt forgiveness can benefit lenders and borrowers alike without causing a wave of intentional defaults, as critics had warned.