An increased reliance on market forces has led to a reassessment of the role of the private rental market in a number of countries. This paper suggests this increased interest shown by governments attempting to withdraw from the housing market and by consumers unable to gain access to owner occupation or social housing is not necessarily shared by investors. It argues there is little to indicate a reversal of the supply side factors which contributed to the widespread post‐war decline of the private rental market and suggests many of the proposals currently under consideration in various European countries may not resolve emerging housing problems. Contrary to experiences elsewhere, the private rental market in Australia has remained robust because of the actions of small‐scale individual landlords. The paper uses survey information on the characteristics and motivations of these landlords to identify the critical factors which have sustained their investment in rental housing. From this it derives lessons which might be relevant for those countries seeking to revive the private rental market. It concludes it is unlikely that the private rental market can be used successfully as a bandaid for difficulties which arise elsewhere in the housing market.