Soviet citizens will be able to buy the apartments they live in and pay for them on an installment plan beginning next year, Pravda said Monday.

Under a program to eliminate the housing shortage by the year 2000, people will be able to buy apartments in state-owned buildings with a down payment of 50 percent and 10 years to pay off the balance, Yuri Batalin, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, told the Communist Party newspaper.Money earned by the state through the sale of apartments will be used to finance the construction of more housing and utilities, Batalin said.

The cost of buying a modest two-room apartment in Moscow was expected to be about $13,000 to $16,200. With average salaries of about $325 a month, a stampede to buy apartments was unlikely.

About one of every five Soviets is on a waiting list for a private house or apartment.

"The actual ownership of an apartment gives one the right to leave it to one's children, grandchildren or relatives as an inheritance or a gift," Batalin said.

Under the new regulations, approved last week by the Council of Ministers, people will also be able to buy vacant apartments in need of repair and fix them for themselves, Batalin said.

"To prevent the use of personal housing as a source of unearned income, each family is entitled to one apartment," he said, assuring that a new class of landlords does not emerge in the socialist state.