Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters as he arrives at a campaign event in front of a foreclosed home in Lehigh Acres, Florida on January 24, 2012. - 

Stacey Vanek Smith: Foreclosed homes are making up a bigger chunk of home sales. A report from RealtyTrac found distressed properties accounted for more than a quarter of all residential home sales in the first three months of this year. Today, housing advocacy groups from 17 states are launching a campaign to force presidential candidates to address forescloures.

From WYPR in Baltimore, Mary Rose Madden reports.

Mary Rose Madden: What's it gonna take to make foreclosures the top issue in this presidential election? A lot of phone time.

LeVar Michael is talking to one of the 20,000 homeowners on the local group's phone list. Phones calls, door to door canvassing, rallies, meetings -- it's all part of the on-the-ground effort to organize homeowners facing foreclosure.

LeVar Michael: There's a lot of people who are struggling to stay in their home. Sometimes people feel isolated. We are just here to help.  We are here to reach out to them and provide any assistance we can.

Michael is now a member of the new Home Defenders League. It says federal programs offer no enforcement and federal task forces have not done nearly enough to address this crisis.

Michael: We are not going to give our votes away for free. We expect to see something substantive occur in order to vote those people back in office.

So, the Home Defenders League is trying to organize a mass movement -- to convince homeowners to fight the banks while urging the presidential candidates to stand up for these voters.  

In Baltimore, I'm Mary Rose Madden for Marketplace.