ST. CLOUD -- The struggle of finding affordable housing across the state continues to be a growing issue, including in St. Cloud.

To help combat the problem, CentraCare Health held a discussion Wednesday on the housing shortage and high cost of living in the St. Cloud area. The goal is to spark potential solutions and trend in a positive direction.

Karen Burzette is with CentraCare and says housing has become an important issue for local employers as companies have a hard time filling jobs due to lack of affordable housing.

We have at any given moment 500-800 open positions at CentraCare and we can't fill them because people can't afford to live here. People who need housing want to work.

Burzette says research has proven stable housing improves the health of not only employees but local communities, which is why they partnered with United Way to help address this issue.

Financial strain is another reason potential employees have a hard time finding housing. Wages have not kept up with the growing increase in home prices and cost to build a new home.

Warren Hanson is the CEO of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. He says the state needs about 50,000 new homes over the next five years, but we can't just build our way out of this shortfall.

We have to be more creative, we need innovation, we need policy change, we need resources. The whole idea behind the meeting at CentraCare is creating partnerships among the private and private sector, the state and local level so we can work together to address the housing shortage.

Mike Maguire is the mayor of Eagan and a member of the Governor's Housing Task Force. He says on a local level we have a broken market and production of housing hasn't kept up with demand.

Because there is less supply then there is demand, that pushes the price of the commodity up and makes it less affordable to people with lower incomes.

Maguire says there are many ways we can continue to build momentum for affordable housing including preserving the homes we already have, support and strengthen home ownership and build stronger links between where we live and the services we need.

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