Cartrefi Conwy housing association in running for hat-trick of UK awards

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A housing association that’s investing £60 million in upgrading existing homes and building 250 new ones is in the running for a hat-trick of major UK awards.

Cartrefi Conwy is the only organisation from Wales to be shortlisted in three categories at the prestigious UK Housing Awards which will be held at London’s Grosvenor Hotel on May 1.

They are among the finalists for the Resident Employment Training Awards, the Direct Labour Organisation of the Year Award and Best Older People’s Landlord Award.

Chief Executive Andrew Bowden said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted in three categories at the UK’s housing Oscars and it is a testament to the dedication of our staff to have our efforts recognised in this way. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed on the night.”

After being established in 2008, Cartrefi Conwy spent £60 million on bringing their 3,800 properties up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and has now embarked on a £30 million, five-year programme of further improvements.

On top of that the housing association is investing another £30 million as part of an ambitious strategy to build 250 new homes by 2020.

To pave the way Cartrefi Conwy last year created a £30 million a year construction hub at a new business park they built in Mochdre.

The ground-breaking development kick-started plans for regeneration projects across North Wales.

Two of the six units at the £1.7 million business park are rented by Cartrefi Conwy’s successful subsidiary, Creating Enterprise, which now employs 57 people and had a turnover of £5.1 million last year.

The social enterprise became the first organisation of its kind in Wales when it began operating in 2015.

It delivers a planned maintenance service for the 3,800 properties managed by the Cartrefi Conwy and provides jobs and training for unemployed tenants so they can get back into the world of work

Creating Enterprise has also landed contracts with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. Conwy County Borough Council and Dylan’s restaurant in Llandudno.

The organisation runs a pioneering employment academy which has already helped 14 unemployed tenants find full-time jobs, as well as providing training for more than 200  tenants  who are looking for work.

Among the latest Creating Enterprise initiatives is a new modular house factory in Holyhead making low-energy homes with running costs of just £200 a year.

The facility, on the Penrhos Industrial Estate, has made the timber frame for a new bungalow in less than three days and already has orders for more than 40 houses.

The venture is believed to be the first of its kind by a social enterprise in Wales and has created four new jobs, with more in the pipeline as the operation grows.

Adrian Johnson, the managing director of Commercial Services for the Cartrefi Conwy group, said: “The concept is simple, Cartrefi Conwy needs to maintain its property portfolio and Creating Enterprise can provide a range of services whilst providing real jobs and training for hard to reach communities.

“Further business is won by competitive tender from public and private sector clients, and three per cent of each work stream’s income contributes towards funding the Employment Academy. So, the more we do, the more employment opportunities we can offer.”

According to Gwynne Jones, the managing director of the housing side of Cartrefi Conwy, he was particularly proud of being in the running for the Best Older People’s Landlord Award.

He said: “Our most recent new development, Cysgod y Gogarth, is an example of how a building can support the changing needs of our older tenants.

“This £4 million development has been built to ‘Life Time Homes’ standard so as the residents’ health and mobility changes we can easily adapt the property to suit their needs. The scheme has been awarded the RNIB Platinum Visibly Better Award accreditation.

“Last year we spent £400,000 on adaptations to ensure our older tenant’s homes are right for them.

“In addition, we have achieved an RNIB platinum award for our Parkway community centre, the first in Wales.

“We have a dedicated resource, our Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator  whose role it is to encourage and empower as many of our tenants to get involved and be active in their communities.”

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Craig Palmer