So much is in flux in North Dakota these days. There is a lot of consternation over what will happen within the oil industry, to the housing market, in our communities and across the state. We are not where we were a couple of years ago and, while that may be a little bit scary, I also think it is a good thing. For the past five or six years, there was so much pressure on housing and we had to catch up to the demands of the economy.
Today, while many communities still have low unemployment rates and are continuing with a growth trend, we are also seeing some easing of conditions for some of our homebuyers. Year-to-date through October, NDHFA has purchased just shy of 200 more FirstHome loans than we did at this time in 2014. Thanks to changes in the rules for the North Dakota Roots program, we have seen an incredible increase in that program. To help otherwise qualified households, we removed provisions of the program that made it very restrictive so the increase in number of Roots loans from 16 in 2014 to 157 at this same time in 2015 shows that those were good changes for households in need.
While the uptick in activity indicates more options for homebuyers, another of our statistics is also telling. The average Roots loan in 2015 is about $6,000 more than in 2014. For FirstHome loans, the difference is $14,500 more this year than last.
Perhaps that is also why we are seeing an increase in use of the Start program, which assists with down payment and closing costs. For the FirstHome loan reservations made in 2015, 71.5 percent have been under Start and 83 percent of Roots loan reservations have used it. In 2014, those numbers were 65.6 percent and 81.3 percent, respectively.
To fund these important programs, NDHFA recently issued $100 million in mortgage revenue bonds. I won’t go into the details, but it was a unique transaction that will allow NDHFA’s homeownership products to continue to be competitive in providing low-cost mortgages to borrowers. Considering the homeownership markets in some other states still struggle, the fact that our bonds are seen as good investments is definitely positive news.
And of course, none of our homeownership activity would be possible without the partnership of many lenders and real estate agents across North Dakota. They are the ones that connect the buyers to our products. In the next year, we expect to pass the 40,000 loan milestone so I want to say thank you to our homeownership allies for their commitment to making 40,000 dreams come true.
There is no doubt that North Dakota is in a time of transition and no one knows for certain what the future holds, but the efforts of many communities to diversify and strengthen their economies and housing markets will continue to show. To sustain the gains that have been made, the need for affordable housing options will be as important as ever moving forward.