2021: The Unexpected Is Expected
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2021: The Unexpected Is Expected

MSQ Capital’s Managing Director Paul Miron says it’s time to shirk any complacency and look beyond the unabated growth.

By Paul Miron
Wed, Feb 24, 2021 4:30amGrey Clock 6 min


For savvy investors, including property and mortgage investors, the new year traditionally starts by reading bold economic and property predictions penned by favourite fund managers and economists attempting to predict what lies ahead.

If 2020 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected. And while 2021 will be a continuation of the emotional roller coaster ride experienced the past 12 months, the difference is that the unexpected is now the expected.

It took me over a decade to truly appreciate and understand a quote from an old economics professor: “Economic forecasting is like trying to predict tomorrow’s weather whilst taking into account how people will collectively feel on that day”. There’s a big difference between economic forecasting and commentating, and those who are bold enough to forecast are (sadly) rarely right.

Despite uncertainty, Australia continues to earn its title as the The Lucky Country via leading virus control and a stable economy. The IMF’s latest predictions claim our economy will be powering towards 5.2% GDP growth this year and 4.1% GDP in 2022, much to the envy for the rest of the world. Despite what can be seen as one of the most significant trade wars in Australia’s history, the ongoing stoush with China, our aggregate exports are steadily growing, predominately off the back of mining.

Remarkably, there’s been no government support for continuing immigration during the pandemic — which traditionally is a significant economic driver— and my mind truly boggles as to how this is playing out.

When it comes to the Australian property market, we need to remember it was less than eight months ago that the general consensus of most respected economists and property commentators was that property would fall in excess of 10% – 20%. Some banks even predicted declines of up to 30%. Today, the RBA believes house values could increase by up to 30% over the next three years (so much for expert economic commentators).

Despite the overall positive property euphoria, we must not become complacent with the apparent advent of continued unabated growth and unwittingly underestimate the ‘iceberg effect’ – because we still don’t know what else could be lurking below the surface.

Iceberg Effect

No one can be quite sure of the quantum of zombie companies still feeding off the Government’s life support which is due to abruptly end this March. Moreover, once the bank moratorium is over, banks will surely begin recovering on delinquent loans. And we are yet to see the full ramifications of both of these unfolding events.

We believe that the possible negative aspects of the aforementioned events have been significantly mitigated due to the Government’s generous support measures and swift actions enabling us to enjoy our current and favourable set of economic circumstances.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced that 90% of the jobs lost during the darkest hour of the pandemic have been clawed back — thus allowing our free markets to take over the economic recovery without further government support. Interestingly, we are now experiencing a tsunami of capital flow through our financial markets.

Despite current rhetoric, as a commercial mortgage fund manager, we need to look deeper than the high-level property headlines. For commercial mortgage funds managers to engage longterm success, they need to be consistent and disciplined in their risk and credit assessments.This ensures maximisation of capital preservation can be maintained and our investors (including SMSF trustees) can rely upon the consistency of regular stable monthly income distributions.

And so to some quick fire market insights …

Regional Property

Despite a large spike in local migration from Sydney and Melbourne to regional areas, our view has not changed on the risk in lending in regional areas. Just as quickly as the prices and demand have gone up, they can as easily revert due to an exodus of people back to the metropo areas once the COVID-19 crisis abates and the physiological desire to work face-to-face, rather than through Zoom, may once again prevail. The second reason is linked to regional areas having lower restrictions on creating new housing supply. In regional areas, undersupply of properties could turn to oversupply in a relatively short period of time as it doesn’t have the same land constrains as the metro areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Commercial and Industrial

According to this week’s data, the inner-city vacancy rates are 8.6% — essentially double last quarter’s figures with the delivery of further supply expected in 2021. This was not unexpected due to the additional restrictions on both businesses and landlords as well as the weakening, but still prevailing, negative stigma of working in the city. To add insult to injury, many multi-national corporations have loosened work from home policies and are slowly giving up commercial space in the city. Despite this negative trend, we remain optimistic that this will reverse over time, however as it might take years, investors should be prudent on the gearing of investments secured against this asset class.

House v Unit

Most of the positive property headlines focus on houses prices rather than the entire residential property market, which prompts a question about price trends for units? Corelogic recently published that the difference between house and unit prices has never been wider with this gap only continuing to expand.

In saying this, there are a number of contributing factors to consider:


  • Most units are concentrated in close proximity to the city and highly populated areas, which proved to be less desirable during COVID-19.


  • Investors make up the largest segment of unit purchases as they favour apartments over houses, due to ease of management and cost. Property Investment activity is at one of the lowest levels for over 10 years.


  • Due to Covid-19 we’re short approximately 500,000 people who are normally short to medium term renters — a direct correlation to the lack of overseas students and tourists.


  • Owner-occupiers are the predominate buyers in the current market and their requirements are different to those of the investor set, that is, they want larger apartments. Due to the lack of supply of this specific product, owner-occupier buyers are turning to houses as an alternative.


  • The Federal Government’s current $2billion Home Builder scheme is artificially increasing demand for houses through generous incentives on offer, the take up of which has far exceeded expectations.

Despite all the odds, including decreasing demand, unit prices remain resilient. We believe that unit prices, which normally lag behind house prices, will catch up in the long term and eventually the gap will shorten.

Mortgage Investment Opportunity

Msquared Capital has identified a number of emerging gaps in the commercial lending market which has enabled us to introduce investors to unique opportunities.

Business owners who’ve been temporally impacted by COVID-19 are now requiring commercial funding and banks have been slow to adapt and are still trying to wrap their heads around how to provide businesses with the right access to cashflow during COVID-19.  These business operators typically have quality real estate to offer as security and this creates a specific opportunity for our investors right now.

With the RBA recently making a strong public commitment that interest rates will remain unchanged until 2024, both business and consumer confidence around obtaining appropriate finance is high. On the flip side, those investors who have historically relied upon bank term deposits to provide them with a good regular income stream are losing out with TD rates hovering around a meagre 0.75%pa.. Accordingly, it’s a great time for those investors to look at alternate investments, including a registered first mortgage loan to a small business borrower (with target rates of return currently between 6.50%p.a. and 8.00% p.a).



Paul Miron has more than 20 years experience in banking and commercial finance. After rising to senior positions for various Big Four banks, he started his own financial services business in 2004.

M2 Capital




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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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