99yo woman faces eviction from San Francisco apartment she rented for life

© Kirby Lee
An African-American woman nearing her 100th birthday could be evicted from her apartment in San Francisco over legal fees. This time the fight isn’t with a real estate developer, but with her neighbors who want to convert her apartment into a condo.

Iris Canada, 99, has lived in her home for more than half a century, but she is facing eviction over $164,000 in legal fees that were accrued during a fight in housing court over a previous eviction notice. She won that case.

Demonstrators came out to support the retired nurse on Monday night, at a time when affordable housing in San Francisco is fast disappearing.

The issue for Canada is that the owners of the six-unit building on Page Street where she lives want to convert her apartment into a condominium. Over a decade ago, they formed a tenancy in common, a form of concurrent ownership in which two or more people possess the property simultaneously, while the apartments can still be sold off individually. Canada was promised that she could keep her apartment for the rest of her life, for $700 a month.

She has continued to live there, despite having a mild stroke some months ago, and so the owners of her apartment cannot sell it.

“I love living in San Francisco,” Canada told the San Francisco Chronicle in April. “San Francisco is my home, and my home is my home. I don't want to go anyplace.”

The co-owners say Canada had left the apartment and, thus, forfeited that right, but her great niece, Iris Merriouns, told ABC News, “She went on hiatus with my mother, and she traveled, and at times she was hospitalized.”

Co-owner Peter Owens said he and other residents want Canada to sign paperwork that would allow them to convert the joint ownership apartments to condos.

"She is holding the entire building economic hostage because nobody can buy and sell their unit," he said.

Iris, who has refused to sign thus far, won her fight to stay in her apartment, but the court ordered Canada to pay Owens $164,000 in legal fees, which he says he is willing to waive if Iris signs the condo paperwork.

"Iris Canada asked for more time to understand the condo conversion documents," Merriouns said.

To that, Owens says, "I am completely supportive of giving her as much time as she needs."

Without Iris’ signature, her family believes she will still be evicted if she does not pay the legal fees.

"He says that he wants to see my aunt to stay in her unit," Merriouns said. "Well, we're asking Peter – if those are the things that you believe, then withdraw. If you’re a man of your word, then withdraw."

Iris turns 100 on July 13. Her family said their celebration is on hold until they resolve the issue at hand.

"This woman has a lifetime lease," Supervisor London Breed told ABC News. "So that means as long as she is here on Earth, she deserves to have the dignity of her home."