Qualitas has raised A$200m (€130m) from global and domestic investors for an Australian real estate opportunity fund.

The vehicle, which has reached a first close, will provide equity and mezzanine debt for quality commercial, retail and residential projects.

Andrew Schwartz, group managing director and CIO at Qualitas, said the Australian debt market is different to that of Europe and the US. Australia’s main four banks issue around 90% of all commercial mortgages – a higher level than in the US and Europe – but they have begun to tighten lending criteria, opening up a space for non-bank funders to enter the market.

But Schwartz said it can be difficult for foreign investors to access opportunities since much of the business is based on relationships and established local networks.

Schwartz said Qualitas has first-mover advantage in the private mid market. “As a result, the new fund has attracted strong interest,” he said.

In recent weeks, Qualitas has participated in two residential projects, worth a total of A$275m.

Qualitas partnered with developer GEOCON to undertake a A$140m project, the Wayfarer Apartments in Canberra, and provided mezzanine finance to the project alongside the senior lender.

The company also provided a senior debt facility to The Monarch Investments Group for the acquisition and development of a prime residential housing site in Sydney’s southwest, to be known as The Meadows.

The A$135m, 210 house-and-land lot development will provide affordable duplex-style housing and already has registered interest from several hundred buyers.

The two projects are examples of why Australia offers a multi-billion-dollar market for opportunistic debt and equity providers wanting to capitalise on the unique characteristics of its commercial real estate funding market.

Qualitas will be responsible for identifying and originating deals for the new opportunity fund, using what it says “the same discretionary approach” that it used for existing investors.