The&nbsp;findings of new research looking at future growth in the Illawarra includes a number of recommendations. The Greater Illawarra: The Smart Growth Agenda report conducted by Judith Stubbs and Associates was discussed at the Property Council of Australia's Illawarra Outlook lunch on Friday. The report found the need for higher job, population and housing growth targets than current official trends. It suggests job and population growth could outperform the official targets and that could send a signal of confidence to local businesses and investors. It also recommended the diversification of urban centres and highlighted the need to build more of the planned new dwellings around key urban centres to ensure more affordable housing that catered for diverse groups, including young people, downsizers and a rapidly ageing population. With housing stress much higher in the region than Sydney, the report says that affordability is critical to retaining young people, housing key workers and students, and providing for older people in retirement. The report also recommends getting more of the right housing onto the market. The research included a detailed audit into local council planning controls across the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven local government areas and identified necessary amendments to local planning schemes and instruments to support density and growth. Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson also highlighted how it also considered infrastructure projects needed to support and stimulate growth in the Illawarra. The report sets out the business case for the critical infrastructure needed to support connectivity between the Illawarra and Greater Sydney and between the local government areas. Mr Richardson asked those at Friday's lunch to consider if the Illawarra was setting its sights high enough and selling itself well enough as a region. He said if that wasn't the case that might be a constraint for both jobs and population growth. Report backs housing reform A NEW national property report card released by the Property Council backs up the need for planning reform to address housing affordability. The 2015 Development Assessment Report Card commissioned by the Property Council of Australia suggests poor planning is holding up new housing and adding to costs for home buyers. The most comprehensive national assessment of Australia's planning framework ever undertaken shows that more than a decade after agreeing to 10 national principles for best practice development assessment, Australia's states and territories are still lagging. The need for more planning reform came just a day after the Illawarra chapter of the Property Council released a report from Judith Stubbs and Associates that suggests housing reform is necessary and needs to be discussed across the region so a plan to combat housing stress can be put in place. That followed a finding that property stress was higher in the Illawarra than Sydney and even higher again in the Shoalhaven. Property Council of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison said the report showed most states and territories were making positive changes but urgently needed to step up their planning reform efforts to take pressure off house prices. "Planning needs to be recognised as a tool to drive economic growth and address housing affordability," Mr Morrison said. "Poor planning and antiquated development assessment processes significantly drive up the price of housing and commercial projects. The only really effective way to make housing more affordable is to build more homes, build them faster and at lower cost." Residential Development Council executive director Nick Proud said streamlining development assessment processes would improve housing affordability by reducing the costs and delays that the current complex processes created. Mr Proud said some states and territories had grasped the importance of planning reform but NSW was falling behind. Key recommendations include: ■ Zoning more land for housing in inner, middle and outer ring suburbs; ■ Simple planning systems and faster, less-politicised processes; ■ Less taxes on the production of new housing to lower prices for purchasers; ■ Link housing and jobs through new infrastructure and ensure new projects are accompanied by a housing and renewal growth plan; ■ Incentivise reform through federal leadership.