SYRACUSE, New York (Legal Newsline) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday that as much as $20 million will be made available over the next two years for communities to rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis.

The $20 million was obtained in a settlement with the nation's largest banks in 2012.

"Through last year's settlement with five banks that contributed to the collapse of the housing market, we've provided roughly $2 billion in relief to homeowners throughout the state -- but it's not nearly enough," Schneiderman said in a statement. "By dedicating money from that settlement to land banks across New York, we'll empower local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block.

"The road to recovery is long, but it will take innovative approaches like this -- driven and managed by those who know the community best -- to boost local economies and finally put this crisis behind us."

The New York State Legislature passed legislation in 2011 following the housing market's collapse that established "land banks," which could acquire vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties and choose to rebuild, demolish or redesign them.

Land banks could lower costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost the local economy by restoring the vacant or abandoned properties.

No state or federal funds, however, have been dedicated to any of the land banks since the passage of the legislation.

A competitive application process started this week will allow land banks to receive funding and fulfill their intended purpose.

Funding will be awarded in two rounds, giving the Attorney General's Office an opportunity to support land banks next year that may not be eligible this year.

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