Operation Match, the house-sharing program sponsored by local governments here, has paired 58 people in its first two months, officials report.

The program, begun in Montgomery County nearly four years ago and extended last November to include the entire area, drew calls from 337 homeowners and potential roomers in December, the officials said.

Roger Wentz, senior housing planner at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Goverments, said that during the first month of the areawide program, 55 to 60 percent of those applying were homeowners. "Calls from owners have been pouring in," he said. "The response has been heavier than we anticipated."

Jean Rule, housing coordinator for Operation Match in Falls Church, said the average age of callers has been 40, with many more men seeking housing than women. At the same time, homeowners have been expressing a preference for female boarders, she said.

Often, she said, divorced women say they are looking for women who can contribute to the rent, be home when children return from school and act as companions. The divorced men who have been calling tend to have good incomes, but heavy financial responsibilities that force them to share housing, Rule added.

However, Rule said that only about 13 percent of the program's participants are elderly persons--not as high as officials had hoped. Falls Church, for one, is launching a community outreach program to inform older people about the services available.

Montgomery County matched approximately 400 persons before the areawide program began, and currently averages 12 or 13 matches a month, said Montgomery coordinator Ruth Craigen.

"We're very proud that we make inter-generational matches which help both young people who need inexpensive housing and older people who want to remain in their homes," Craigen said.

Areawide, rent for one bedroom with kitchen privileges averages $175 to $225, COG's Wentz said. Some boarders pay part of their rent with services, such as yard work, child care, shopping or housework.

While there are no real qualifiers or residency requirements, Wentz said that in most jurisdictions, participants must be 18 years old to sign a lease. Only small households of one or two persons can be placed, he said.

In Montgomery, Craigen said she has noticed an upswing in the number of couples seeking shared housing since the network began.

Operation Match requires interviews of all participants. Boarders must have three references, while homeowners must give two references and allow their homes to be inspected. Owners are then given the name of several potential boarders to interview.

Wentz emphasized that while anyone can apply, it takes several weeks for a match to be made, and no emergency housing arrangements can be made.

COG maintains an information hotline on the program: 223-6800, extension 423.