John Howard insists he liked the prime minister's official Canberra residence, describing The Lodge as "very comfortable".
Australia's second longest-serving prime minister, Mr Howard attracted criticism in the ACT in 1996 and throughout his tenure for moving his family into Sydney's Kirribilli House rather than the historic Canberra home used by prime ministers since 1927.
In a letter to The Canberra Times this week, Mr Howard said a report that he disliked the home was incorrect.
"Tom McIlroy's story on The Lodge renovations wrongly asserted that I 'famously disliked' The Lodge," Mr Howard wrote.
"I enjoyed living in The Lodge during the time that I was prime minister. My wife and I found it a very comfortable residence, and appreciated the privilege afforded to us."
Mr Howard declined to expand further on the matter when contacted by Fairfax Media.
In 1996 Mr Howard and his wife Janette Howard decided to use Kirribilli House as their family home, saying the disruption of bringing their three children to Canberra would affect their school and university education.
"I think it's fair to say that I will not spend quite as much time in Canberra as some of my predecessors," Mr Howard told The Canberra Times in March 1996. "I won't spend a lot of time there."
Mrs Howard went further. "All the upheaval, the homesickness and the separation from their friends if they move to Canberra are nothing to the joy of living under the same roof as their father," she said.
The Howards' decision was nothing if not controversial.
Kate Carnell, the then Liberal chief minister, told The New York Times in 1997 it had far-reaching consequences for Canberra.
"Government isn't exactly the flavour of the month around here," she said. "It's hard enough to get over the negative sides of a place that people say is full of a lot of jolly politicians, and the PM deciding not to live here just adds to that attitude."
In August 1997, protesters rallied in Canberra and Labor moved motions in the Legislative Assembly arguing the Howards were "setting the tone which has caused economic damage".
Opposition leader Kim Beazley highlighted the issue while campaigning. He said The Lodge had been built "for prime ministers to shift their families to" and he committed to moving in if he were to defeat Mr Howard. He never did defeat Mr Howard.
Tamie Fraser, wife of former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, told an author she was outraged by the Howards' decision. The Frasers lived at The Lodge from 1975 until 1983, after living in a nearby home while Mr Fraser was opposition leader.
"It's an insult to the diplomatic corps because they're all in Canberra," Mrs Fraser said. "Not to mention the expense of flying all the public servants and political advisors down to Sydney and back. Frankly, I don't know how he's got away with it."
Hans van de Zandt was central to the formation of a protest "PM for Canberra Committee".
"I find it bizarre that the highest people in the land didn't want to come to Canberra," he said.
The 45-year veteran of Canberra thought Mr Howard's recent comments were "nonsense".
"If you get chosen in the profession you were chosen in, you should have to live in the city," he said.
"We believed Canberra was going to lose a lot of momentum from not having a prime minister here."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy Turnbull are expected to move into the home next year after overdue $9-million heritage restorations were completed last month.
Prime minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce and his wife Ethel Bruce first moved into the colonial revival-style home, Designed by Melbourne architects Oakley and Parkes, in May 1927. James Scullin refused to live at The Lodge, objecting to its cost during the Great Depression. Ben Chifley preferred a suite at the Hotel Kurrajong.
Prime ministers including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have lived at The Lodge, but Tony Abbott missed out because of the renovations.