Women -- particularly single women with children -- have difficulty finding housing they can afford in Maryland, according to early replies to a survey conducted by the state's Commission on Human Relations.

This conclusion is based on a "cursory review" of the answers on the first 500 of about 8,000 questionnaires sent to community groups, churches and civic organizations, said a commission spokesman. The purpose of the survey is to pinpoint the housing problems encountered by women in the state.

About 200 of the first 500 replies were obtained from professional women attending a women's fair in Baltimore earlier this year, said the spokesman. These early replies showed that about half of the women were single parents with children, and only half said they were fairly satisfied with their present home.

Based on requests for help received by the commission, reviews of rental advertisements in Baltimore newspapers since 1981, and on the first survey results, a housing expert predicts the completed survey will show that women are denied adequate housing because they are single and have children.

The expert said that about 20 percent of the newspaper ads indicated a preference for adults only, and that percentage sometimes doubled at peak periods such as late summer. Maryland law does not prohibit denying rentals to parents and children.

The commission wants to use the survey findings to press for fair housing laws during the next session of the state General Assembly, which begins in January.

Legislation prohibiting discrimination against families with children has been defeated in recent years, after heavy lobbying against it by the housing industry, said the commission official.