A majority of U.S. renters lived in unaffordable housing in 2009, according to new data from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) released by the Census Bureau on Sept. 28. The study results also found most Americans faced unaffordable living expenses as a result of increased rents and a decline in incomes on the other. This trend has hit the lowest-income renters the hardest, with more Americans opting to rent instead of owning homes.

The total number of all renters experiencing a housing cost burden – defined as spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities – increased to 18.5 million from 17.4 million in 2008. This translates to more than half, 51.6 percent of all renter households facing a housing cost burden, up from 50 percent in 2008. Median rents rose from $818 in 2008 to $842 in 2009, while median renter incomes decreased from $31,891 to $30,576.

“The numbers from the most recent ACS are not too surprising given the high unemployment rates and rising rents across the country,” said Danilo Pelletiere, research director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a press statement. “We expected to see another year of increases in the number of households struggling to stay in their homes and make ends meet, but what is unfortunate is that Congress has yet to take the necessary action to provide more affordable rental housing options to low income Americans in these difficult times.”