Which suburbs have the most, fewest vacant homes
When Fox Lake Mayor Ed Bender looks around his village, he sees the scourge of foreclosure -- vacant homes.
Those empty shells aren't just in one neighborhood or another. They're spread across the town, across the region and across the nation. But this is his hometown, so it's more worrisome.
"Even the banks have walked away from them," Bender said.
Fox Lake has 15.2 vacant homes per every 100 housing units, the highest rate in the region. Others at the top include North Chicago with 14.5, Wonder Lake and Oakbrook Terrace each with 12.7, Mettawa with 11.8, Zion with 11.3 and Barrington Hills with 10.4 vacant homes per 100 housing units, according to the 2010 U.S. Census data released this week.
The more homes that are vacant, the more a town loses in revenue from property taxes and from water, sewer and other fees, not to mention lost customers for local businesses. Upkeep of vacant property, including cutting overgrown grass and policing vandalism, graffiti, squatters and other problems, ultimately costs the village even more, Bender said.
"But this is not a unique problem here. It's all over," Bender said.
Overall, the vacancy rate roughly doubled compared to the last census in 2000.
While Fox Lake is at the high end, Green Oaks is at the bottom of the list locally with 2.8 vacant homes per every 100 housing units. Bartlett had 3 vacant homes per 100, and Kaneville, Spring Grove and Sugar Grove had 3.1.
In comparison, Chicago's vacancy rate was 12.5, while the state had 8.7, the census data showed.
A housing unit can be a house, an apartment, a mobile home or trailer, a group of rooms, or a single room occupied as a separate living quarters.
All of these empty homes are in addition to the untold number of unfinished houses in the suburbs that were left behind by bankrupt or struggling builders. Those partially built houses generally aren't included in the census, said Stephen R. Laue, information specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Oak Brook.
While there are many reasons a house could be vacant -- such as the death of an owner, a job transfer to another city, or empty nesters who've downsized -- foreclosure remains the No. 1 cause for the dramatic increase in vacancies, experts said.
The sluggish real estate market means many of those homes are empty for the long haul.
Short sales, where homeowners seek to sell a home before the final foreclosure judgment, along with final foreclosures, force many financially strapped owners out of their homes. Other people just walk away, abandoning their homes, said Connie Hofherr, regional vice president and broker manager of Prudential Starck Realtors in Arlington Heights. She's been a Realtor in the Northwest suburbs for about 35 years.
"It's sad when you look at these," Hofherr said, flipping through a growing list of bank-owned homes, townhouses and condominiums. "This is what affects real estate prices and it's very difficult for appraisers to appraise a home. There are so many short sales and foreclosures that no neighborhood is immune."
The recession, along with its ensuing high rate of unemployment and other economic problems, forced many people out of their homes. But these hardships probably are temporary, said Phil Ashton, assistant professor of urban planning and policy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
He sees the foreclosure crisis coming to an end in the next three to five years, and those who lost their homes could have a chance at ownership again in the next five to seven years, he said.
"Once people are back on their feet, they'll be back owning or renting," said Ashton.