One of the best known figures in the Welsh housing sector was given the surprise of his life when he was co-hosting an awards ceremony – he was presented with his own gong.
The outstanding commitment award received by Gwynne Jones, managing director of Cartrefi Conwy, at the Welsh Housing Awards, organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru (CIH), was among an unprecedented haul of four honours won by the go-ahead housing association.
Mr Jones, who comes originally from Llanrwst and now lives in Ruthin, is at the forefront of a £45 million strategy to build 428 new homes over the next three years.
At the ceremony at the International Conference Centre in Newport, Cartrefi Conwy also picked up a hat-trick of other awards.
First up came Llys Cynfran, in Llysfaen, which was crowned as the best new small-scale housing development in Wales.
The £2 million scheme comprises 17 houses and apartments built on a tricky, derelict site on a hillside next to Cartrefi Conwy’s award-winning Parc Peulwys estate.
The housing association’s subsidiary, Creating Enterprise, was honoured in the category for community-focused contractors who give something back to the neighbourhoods in which they operate.
It came hot on the heels of another award for Creating Enterprise which was recently named as one of the fastest growing companies in Wales at the Fast Growth 50 Awards.
Cartrefi Conwy was called to the stage for a third time for the Positive Place Making Award which went to the Tre Cwm housing estate in Llandudno.
The estate has been transformed with a £1.4 million makeover that’s delighted the tenants and also helped it win a coveted Green Flag Award.
Tre Cwm is one of only two Welsh housing estates to win Green Flag status – the other one being Parc Peulwys which is also managed by Cartrefi Conwy and has had Green Flag status for the past five years.
Among those who spoke at the awards ceremony was Cllr Angie O’Grady, the Mayor of Llandudno, who is also a Tre Cwm tenant.
According to Cllr O’Grady, the estate was a “dismal canvas” before Cartrefi Conwy took it over after tenants voted for a stock transfer from Conwy County Borough Council in 2008.
She said: “The whole place was in need of radical transformation.
“Now thanks to the hard work put in by Cartrefi Conwy that transformation has been achieved and it’s changed so many lives for the better.”
She confessed to having originally been a fervent critic of the stock transfer 11 years ago.
But she said: “I’ve been proved wrong. Cartrefi Conwy has not only calmed my fears but won me round.
“It’s demonstrated a commitment to investing in improving our homes, our environment and our community. It cares about its residents.”
Mr Jones said it was a “supremely proud moment” to hear Cllr O’Grady’s ringing endorsement and to receive the individual award for his two decades of service to the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru.
After starting out as a temporary rent collector for the old Arfon Borough Council in 1987, he then worked for Denbigh-based Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd, now part of Grŵp Cynefin, before joining the newly-formed Cartrefi Conwy as operations director in 2008.
He said: “We achieved a lot very quickly. I was very fortunate to be part of a fantastic team that delivered a massive £30 million programme of improvements and we were one of the few organisations in Wales to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard by the 2012 deadline set by the Welsh Government.
“That was one of my proudest moments along with the regeneration projects at the Parc Peulwys and Tre Cwm estates.
“We’re very fortunate that both sites have been honoured with Green Flag status which is not just a feather in the cap for Cartrefi Conwy but also recognition for the whole community.
“The schemes have been life-changing and life-enhancing for our tenants and we’ve also been able to assist people in getting employment through those regeneration projects.
“I was deeply touched by the words of Cllr Angie O’Grady because actually hearing the comments coming from one of the residents, talking about how the estate has been transformed and how we’ve worked with the community and the residents, was fantastic.
“But I was completely taken unawares by the award I received. It was a total shock.
“It was a thank you by the Charted Institute of Housing for everything that I’ve given back to the profession in a way. It’s something that gives me so much pleasure and pride every day.”
Among those delighted to hear about Llys Cynfran’s award was tenant Katie Stone, 31, a mother-of-three, who said: “I think the place is lovely and we’ve got lovely neighbours and the house. Moving into a house like this has changed my life. It’s like winning the lottery.”
Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden was thrilled that the organisation had “done the quadruple”, something that had never been achieved before.
He said: “I am very proud that our efforts have been recognised by our peers in the Welsh housing sector because it confirms Cartrefi Conwy is setting the benchmark in terms of innovation and quality.
“On a personal note, I was delighted for Gwynne because he is man of great ability and integrity who lives and breathes social housing. The honour is richly deserved.”