The value of homes in the top 10% wealthiest communities are worth more than six times those in the bottom 40%, the new survey from the Demand Institute says.

These more affluent communities – the top 10% – comprise about 52% of housing wealth at $4.4 trillion, as opposed to just 8%, or $700 billion, among the bottom 40% of households.

The Demand Institute, an operation backed by the Conference Board and Nielsen, assessed 2,200 communities, ranging from the wealthiest old-money suburbs to the most endangered communities.

The report, which you can download here, surveyed the total market value of owner-occupied housing – not investor properties – in communities ranging from the East Coast old skyline cities to rural small towns, and all the variations of suburbs, exurbs, and villages in between.

Among their findings, the total home value for the wealthiest set rose 73% from 2000 to 2012. Those homeowners in the bottom 50% saw 59% gains in home values.

This survey is critical data because housing is usually the single most valuable and visible asset for U.S. households, and provides an accurate lens through which to assess the state of American communities.

Their analysis suggests that approximately 50% of the American communities studied are struggling to find their way forward after the Great Recession.

Housing is a major engine of the U.S. economy – 15% of all activity – and consumers spend approximately $2 trillion a year on housing, including the costs of buying, renting, renovating, and maintaining homes. In turn, this triggers hundreds of billions of dollars of additional spending in related industries such as construction, banking, automotive, retailing, and telecommunications.

Affordability continues to be a problem.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reported that in 2011, 37% of households carried a moderate or severe housing cost burden. This is defined as the need to spend 30-50% of pretax household income on essential housing expenses: mortgage principal and interest payment, rent, insurance, taxes, and utilities. The burden is considered severe after the 50% mark.

The Demand Institute survey suggests that the situation has deteriorated further.

They estimate that 41% carry a moderate or severe housing cost burden. More specifically, that’s 25% of households carrying a moderate burden, while another 16% carry a severe burden.

In the next five years, the Institutes projects that about ?4 million households will fail to realize their current purchasing or even rental aspirations. Of that number, 3.75 million currently intend to own a single-family home, 200,000 to own a multi-family home, and 200,000 to rent a single-family home.