Prime Minister John Key implied that mould problems in some Housing New Zealand homes could be caused by tenants not ventilating them enough, something his widowed mother was vigilant about in their Christchurch state house.

He also rejected claims by Labour that the Government was making "a profit" from Housing New Zealand because it took a dividend.

Labour leader Andrew Little zeroed in on Mr Key's upbringing in a state house in an attempt to highlight recent cases of mouldy state houses.

Mr Little: Did the state house he grew up in have mould and leaks, and is it okay for kids today to live in mouldy, leaky, cold state houses because of lack of maintenance?

Mr Key: No, not from memory. Obviously, the house would have been much more modern back then, given it was so many decades ago. But also I will say that my mother took absolute pride in making sure that she kept the house clean, tidy, and ventilated.

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He added that the Government was proud of the fact it was spending $300 million a year "improving the mess we inherited from Labour. Its own house was never in order".

Mr Little criticised the Government for taking a dividend from Housing New Zealand ($636 million over seven years compared with Labour's $281m) when it could be using the money so spend more doing up its houses.

Mr Key said he would take Mr Little more seriously if Labour had not suspended maintenance on houses when it was in Government in order to build more houses.

He said National had insulated 280,000 cold damp homes, 48,000 of which were state houses, it had spent $30 million providing heating at 10,000 properties and had installed thermal curtains at 17,000 house since 2013.

Mr Little: How can a man who grew up in a state house be OK with making a profit off our poorest families while they live in conditions that are killing their kids and making them seriously ill?

Mr Key: The Government does not make a profit out of Housing New Zealand. It spends $700 million on income-related rents. It spends $300 million maintaining them...Labour let those houses run down, it let those tenants get sick, and now in Opposition it wants to pass the buck to someone else. It is a disgrace, Mr Little.