The private rental sectors (PRS) in Australia and the UK differ substantially in terms of size and composition, institutional settings, and historical role in their respective housing systems. However, governments in both countries envisage the PRS as playing an enhanced role in accommodating lower-income households, in part to offset declining opportunities to access social housing. In examining this development we ask how far contemporary housing policy objectives can be met within current institutional settings for the PRS. We examine the sector's role within the broader rental housing market and the institutional settings for the PRS in the two countries, which affect outcomes for lower-income private tenants. The paper argues that achieving policy objectives to house lower-income households in the PRS, as well as in social housing, will require attention to the institutional settings for the PRS in addition to the acknowledged need to nurture supply. We examine prospects for better coordination between housing and related public policies and regulation of the PRS, and for a move to a more integrated rental market.