In the five counties that surround Cook County, there were as many as 14,453 vacant homes in the second quarter of this year, up 63 percent from the end of 2010, when 8,852 homes were empty, according to U.S. Postal Service data analyzed by the DePaul University Institute for Housing Studies.

“Every community had vacant homes because every community had individuals and families suffer from the downturn and lose homes,” says Donald Schoenheider, mayor of Lake Forest, in Lake County.

In Hinsdale, a DuPage County suburb that boasted a household median income of $158,699 in the last census, borrowers defaulted on 59 home mortgage loans in 2006, a number that peaked at 81 defaults three years later, according to foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac Inc. Defaults have slowed since then, but empty homes still dot the village of 16,816.

Last month, there were 38 properties on Hinsdale's vacant-home registry, down from a high of 49 in April 2010, according to Robert McGinnis, the village's community development director. The registry was established in 2008, he says.

“We were at our deepest, darkest level. People had no idea where the bottom was. Frankly, it was done proactively to at least keep some sort of tab on the number of (vacant homes) out there and who had ownership in them,” he recalls.

Other well-to-do suburbs that maintain vacant-property registries include Northbrook, Lisle and Oak Park, according to the Woodstock Institute, a housing advocacy group in Chicago.

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