The 'Poor Doors' Controversy

Should apartment buildings that have both luxury and affordable units have separate entrances for wealthy and non-wealthy residents? Students learn about a controversy over "poor doors" in New York and London, analyze different perspectives, and write a persuasive essay on the issue.


  • to define what is meant by poor doors

  • to learn about the current controversy about poor doors

  • to use a graphic organizer to analyze different points of view about poor doors

  • to develop a well-informed opinion about the poor-door controversy

  • to construct a persuasive written or spoken argument

1.    Introduction

Explain to students that today they will be exploring a controversy that has been in the news about something that has come to be called "poor doors." To help students understand what poor doors are, and what the controversy is about, have them read The Poor Door Controversy below.

2.     Opinion Continuum Activity

Help students think about the poor-door controversy by doing an opinion continuum activity with them. Explain that for this activity they will be asked where they stand regarding some statements.

Post a sign on one side of the classroom that says "Strongly Agree" and another on the opposite side that says "Strongly Disagree." Connect the signs with yarn, string, or masking tape on the floor, so that students can see that there is a continuum between the two extreme opinions. Tell students that you will read a statement, after which they will stand up and move to the appropriate place along the continuum, depending on their own opinion about the statement.

After you read the statement, give students a chance to position themselves. Give them another minute to talk with the people near them about why they are standing where they are. Then ask each group of students to explain to the other groups why they are standing where they are. Afterwards, give students a chance to change their position if their view has changed. Have one or more students explain what persuaded them to change their position.

Repeat the process for each opinion on the list below. If you don't have time for all the opinions, select just a few, being sure that they represent different perspectives.
Opinions About Poor Doors for the Opinion Continuum

  • Building affordable housing is more important than which door people use.
  • People who pay more on an airplane get more comfortable seats and better food than people who pay less. The same should hold true for doors to apartment buildings.
  • Walking into a building should not be any different based on income status.
  • Separate doors keep costs down for residents who can't afford fancy lobbies and concierges.
  • Having low-income residents use less attractive entries is a form of segregation and should not be allowed.
  • People who pay more for housing should be able to have more luxuries in their lobbies than people who pay less.

3. T-Chart of Arguments

Students may do the following part of the activity alone or in small groups.

Explain to students that the rest of the poor-doors lesson will involve writing. Make a T chart on the board that looks like this, and have each student or group of students copy it on paper.


 In favor of separate doors                           


      Opposed to separate doors                           




Have students generate lists of arguments in favor of separate doors and opposing separate doors. Walk around the classroom offering guidance to those who need it. Once students' have finished their lists, ask them to share their arguments. Record the arguments on the T chart on the board so that you have a completed T chart that includes everyone's work.

4.    Persuasive essay

Tell students that they are going to write a persuasive essay about poor doors. Remind them, if necessary, that in a persuasive essay, the writer tries to convince the reader that a particular opinion is correct. Explain that you will walk them through the preparation process step by step.
You can either read the following questions aloud and give students a chance to write their answers in class, or you can print out the questions and give them to the students on their own.

A. What is your opinion about poor doors? Write your opinion in one sentence.

B. What is one argument that supports your opinion? Write a sentence stating it.

C. What is another argument that supports your opinion? Write a sentence stating it.

D. What is a third argument that supports your opinion? Write a sentence stating it.

E. What is an argument that someone might use to support a point of view that is different from yours? Write it by completing this sentence: Some people might argue that...

F. How would you respond to that argument? Write your response in a sentence.

Explain to students that they now have an outline of their essay.

The first sentence (A) is the thesis. The thesis goes at the end of the first paragraph. Before the thesis, students should write a few sentences that introduce the topic of poor doors and explain that poor doors are controversial.

Each of the next three sentences (B,C, and D) is the topic sentence of a paragraph that supports the thesis. To complete each paragraph, students will fully explain the argument they stated in the topic sentence.

Explain that sentences E and F are called "acknowledging the opposition and disposing of it." They go into a paragraph that students should insert after the thesis paragraph.

Have each student write an ending to the essay. The final paragraph starts with their thesis statement (written in different words) and some kind of conclusion.
In summary, the construction of the essay is:

Paragraph 1: Introduce the controversy and then state your thesis ( sentence A).
Paragraph 2: "Acknowledge the opposition and dispose of it" (includes sentences E and F).
Paragraph 3: Argument 1 for your thesis (includes sentence B)
Paragraph 4: Argument 2 for your thesis (includes sentence C)
Paragraph 5: Argument 3 for your thesis (includes sentence D)
Paragraph 6: Restate the thesis and make a conclusion.

If your class has engaged in peer editing, you may want them to do so with their essay drafts. Have students revise their drafts as necessary and turn them in.

5.  Taking Action

If students are engaged in the subject and have strong feelings about it, talk with them about possible action steps. How might students use what they've learned and the arguments they have developed to make a difference? Support students in developing and implementing a plan of action.


The Poor-Door Controversy


In expensive cities like New York and London, housing is at a premium, which means that prices—for renting and purchasing—are very high. People who are less than rich (in other words, most people) find themselves getting shut out of these cities because they simply can't afford to live there.

One way government has addressed this issue is to require that new apartment buildings must include a small number of units specified as "affordable housing" that cost less and that are available to people with lower incomes. 

But what does this look like in real life? In some of these new buildings, the lower-paying residents must use different entrances than their wealthy neighbors. The wealthy enter through lavishly decorated lobbies staffed by concierges (more commonly called doormen), while the non-wealthy enter through no-frills side entrances. Once inside, the wealthy residents get their mail and dispose of their garbage in one set of facilities, the non-wealthy in a different set. Sometimes the less wealthy residents are denied access to building amenities (like a gym) that the wealthy residents enjoy.  

Some people accept this arrangement as sensible; others criticize it as income-based segregation.

What do you think?

For additional information:

"Poor Door" in a New York Tower Opens a Fight Over Affordable Housing
Poor doors: the segregation of London's inner-city flat dwellers