A young man usually doesn't know any more about buying a home than a young woman does, observes Jo Ann McGeorge.

In the past, the man soon acquired "pick-up knowledge" about the intricacies of home ownership from casual talks with older men; the woman-because of old job and sexual roles-generally did not.

And today, McGeorge says, despite changing employment and life paterns, "women (still) are not really very knowledgeable about the world of mortgage credit."

McGeorge is director of a federal Housing and Urban Development Department project designed to change all that.

A grass-roots HUD campaign to educate women, realtors and lenders on the new status of women in the housing market will be held in 16 cities selected to reflect geographic, housing market and racial-ethnic diversity. Local organizations with large numbers of women will be trained to run workshops and seminars covering such topics as advantages and disadvantages of home ownership, credit basics, different mortage instruments and how to buy a home.

HUD Secretary Patricia Harris notes that some lenders remain reluctant to make loans to single women, or to take into account the full income of married women.

This, Harris says, "too often thwarts women in their search for decent housing, . . . acts as a drag on their economic advancement and must surely dampen the economic vitality of our entire country."

Another part of the project is designed to make lenders and realtors aware of the full extent of equal credit and fair housing laws enacted five years ago.

They also will be made aware that women are creditworthy and that projections for women's income growth as family heads keep pace with those for married men.

"Home ownership has traditionally been considered part of getting married and settling down," project director McGeorge said in an interview. "Now it's an investment opportunity."

"It's not that we want all women to become homeowners," she says, "(we want to ensure) a woman can make a reasoned choice."

HUD has awarded four organizations nearly $1 million to help the project along.

BLK Inc., a management consultants firm, is under contract to manage the workshops in the 16 target cities. They are Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Knoxville, Tenn; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; Portland; Ore.; Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C.

One goal of the workshops is to expand the information base for the "pick-up knowledge" from which men have benefitted for many years. Another is to design a package that groups in any city can use to run their own workshops.

Another part of the project will have the League of Women Voters pick chapters in 10 cities to conduct workshops geared toward business and professional women, and divorced homemakers who have been out of the job market. Some of the chapters will be in addition to the 16 cities.

Also, possible sex and race discrimination in the mortgage market will be investigated by Harvard Univesity under a HUD research grant.

Finally, the National Council of Negro Women won a contract to produce a series of educational packages covering the major housing issues of concern to women.