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Rideau Cottage is seen on the grounds of Rideau Hall, Monday October 26, 2015 in Ottawa. Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau announced that he would move in to the residence.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The official residence that has housed every Canadian prime minister since the time of Louis St. Laurent has long been known for being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

A series of noisy air conditioners squeezed into the leaky windows of 24 Sussex Dr. can be seen from the street. On one winter night, former prime minister Jean Chrétien plugged in a space heater and knocked out power to the entire home.

There is asbestos in the walls, the plumbing is deficient and the entire electrical system has been operating at capacity for at least a decade.

Now it appears the much-needed repairs will no longer be put off.

The Liberals announced Monday that prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his family won't be moving into 24 Sussex Dr. any time soon. Instead, they'll be living across the street in a home called Rideau Cottage, on the 36-hectare grounds of Rideau Hall.

The announcement suggests that Mr. Trudeau will allow the National Capital Commission to make repairs to the prime minister's official residence at 24 Sussex, though the Liberal Leader's office said no final decision has been made.

Government officials have long recommended that the building be vacated for about a year to allow for repairs. However, the potential negative political optics of approving renovations worth millions of dollars meant the work has been repeatedly delayed.

The Auditor-General reported in 2008 that many of the building's features are in "critical" condition and recommended repairs worth $9.7-million. Much of that work was never done and the bill is likely higher now.

The statement from the Liberal Leader's office said the Trudeaus would be living at Rideau Cottage until further notice.

"The Prime Minister-designate will make decisions regarding 24 Sussex Drive once he has been fully briefed by officials," the statement read.

Rideau Hall is the official residence of the governor-general. Rideau Cottage is tucked away behind the main building and is surrounded by trees. The grounds of Rideau Hall are a park-like setting that is open to the public, but vehicles must go through one of two security checkpoints.

Rideau Cottage is a 22-room building that was constructed in 1867 and received major renovations in 2013.

It has traditionally been used as the residence of the secretary to the governor-general. A Rideau Hall spokesperson said the current secretary, Stephen Wallace, was involved in the decision and that he "graciously" accepted to be relocated to a nearby location.

Rideau Hall spokeswoman Annabelle Cloutier told reporters that this will be the first time a prime minister has lived on the grounds of the governor-general's residence.

"It's a big estate, so there is enough space for [Mr. Trudeau] to be living here and have his own private space with his family," she said.

Ms. Cloutier said the grounds around Rideau Cottage are not normally open to the public and that practice will continue. She also indicated that extra security will be added around the home.

Barbara Uteck, a former secretary to the governor-general who lived in Rideau Cottage and paid rent from 2000 to 2006, said she loved living there.

"It's a really lovely building. It's a beautiful house," she said. "It will be a great house for family. … It's a publicly owned house that's been restored appropriately. It's not extravagantly restored in any way."

Over the years, 24 Sussex has seen a range of historic visitors, including Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, and John and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Not all of those visits have been glamorous. Mr. Chrétien described a July meeting with Al Gore, who was then vice-president of the United States.

"He had his vest, plus his coat, and I had in the window a little machine, you know, that you turn with your hand. That was the air conditioning of the prime minister of Canada. So it is about time to be reasonable about that. It is not for [Justin Trudeau]. It is for the state," he said. "It's not very nice when you look like a bunch of cheap guys."

Mr. Chrétien suggested renovations have been delayed out of concern that it would generate negative reaction in the media.

But Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said he is not critical of renovations to 24 Sussex, as long as the government is transparent.

"People are sort of expecting us to be very upset about this, but just as if it were a departmental building with the roof caving in that needed serious repairs, as long as the cost is transparent and people know what it is, I think it's entirely reasonable," he said. "Leaving this stuff too long can actually result in greater expense down the road."

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