– The purpose of this paper is to re‐appraise the role of the private renting in the housing system drawing on a review of public policies toward the sector in six countries. It re‐examines the adequacy of explanations about tenurial “competition” and the dynamics of tenurial change using a cross disciplinary perspective.
– The paper critiques key explanations on the nature and type of competition between housing tenures, notably dual and unitary models, and the role of private renting in explanations of tenure dynamics. The paper also explores some of these ideas empirically by examining the changing role of the private renting relative to other tenures in a number of European countries and in Australia.
– The paper expresses doubts about the potential for unitary markets to develop/continue as integrated markets because of the fundamental problems about ensuring continuing investment in the private rented sector and constraints on the maturation process, particularly where ownership of rental housing is diverse and small‐scale. The analysis suggests that housing tenures are quite fluid and with a general trend towards deregulation of private rents there is a blurring of the distinction between different types of rental systems.
– The analysis suggests that it is critical to understand changes in private renting taking into account broader economic conditions, trade‐offs about housing consumption and investment, and public policy settings.