BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Achieving the American Dream of home ownership comes at a price. For some, that price is too high. Now a local consumer group is spreading the word about a little-known tax credit that can mean the difference between keeping or losing your home, WJZ’s Amy Yensi reports.

Loretta Jefferson packed the last 20 years of her life into boxes, fearing she would lose her home.

“I was anxious. I was thinking, ‘Well, where am I going to live now?'” said Jefferson.

The 69-year-old retired secretary paid off her Brooklyn row home, but couldn’t make ends meet to pay the taxes. That put her at risk of a tax lien foreclosure.

“Oh my gosh. I’ve been in this house all these many years. And now for about $1,000 or so dollars, I’m going to lose my house,” said Jefferson.

In a last-ditch effort, she applied for the Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit. A few weeks later, she got the news she had been hoping for.

“One thousand and two hundred two dollars and ninety seven cents,” Jefferson said.

The tax credit has been around since 1986. Most homeowners who qualify don’t even know it exists.

“Of the people that were seen, that were in danger of tax lien foreclosure, ninety percent–had they taken the credit–would have been able to save their homes,” said Marceline White, who runs the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

White says Baltimore City and Prince George’s County have the highest foreclosure rates in the state, and this renewable tax credit of up to $1,200 a year can be a big help.

“To qualify your home has to be valued at $300,000 or less and your income has to be $60,000 or below,” said White.

To earn the Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit for 2016, you must apply by September. To learn how, CLICK HERE or call 211.

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