Nearly 200 people applied to rent shops owned by the Housing Authority yesterday despite the economic downturn. The promising response has prompted the authority to consider again renting shops based on first-come, first-served instead of the usual tendering process. Leases for about 160 shops on 63 Housing Authority estates were offered yesterday on a first-come, first-served basis for the first time. By 5pm, 198 applications had been lodged. Most applicants said they hoped to rent extra shops to extend their businesses. Others were unemployed and wanted to start their own businesses. The first-come, first-served system allows prospective tenants to negotiate rents with the department. Many applicants said they would offer to pay between 50 and 70 per cent of market rents.